New home, same mission: Palatine agency that helps needy residents ready for next chapter
Journeys The Road Home, a Palatine agency that assists Northwest suburban residents who are unhoused or at risk of losing their homes, is preparing for its next chapter.
Next year, Journeys will expand its footprint and its reach when the agency opens a 24-hour facility at 1140 E. Northwest Highway in Palatine.
The address is new, but the mission remains the same: "Neighbors helping neighbors," is how executive director Beth Nabors describes Journeys. To recognize that work, Journeys received a $10,000 grant from the Daily Herald Neighbors in Need fund established last year in cooperation with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Daily Herald readers donated $36,000 total to the fund, which the McCormick Foundation matched at 50 cents on the dollar to address homelessness, hunger and health care access in the suburbs.
Founded in 1999, Journeys The Road Home resulted from the merger of Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) -- a consortium of Northwest suburban churches providing emergency shelter -- and Hope Now, a social service agency.
The new facility will offer the same services -- mental health counseling, addiction treatment, help with job searches, vocational counseling, housing assistance, primary nursing care, food and clothing -- on a larger scale.
Clients hail from 37 Northwest suburban communities, including Barrington, Bartlett, Palatine, Elk Grove Village, Arlington Heights, Schaumburg, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Wilmette and all points in between, said director of development Suzanne Ploger, who estimates the organization serves between 800 and 1,000 people annually.
The services that employees and volunteers provide are sorely needed, Ploger said.
"Homelessness and poverty look different in the suburbs," she said. "Because of that, people don't understand the need."
"When people come through our front door, it's the worst day of their life," she said. And while asking for assistance may make them feel weak, the opposite is true: It takes strength to ask for help, Ploger said.
And help is what Journeys provides as part of its daily services which, in addition to food and clothing, includes laundry services and showers, mailboxes and lockers. Counseling, case management, financial and budgeting advice and other assistance are also offered.
Donations to the organization help "make sure the doors are open when people need it," Ploger said, adding "these are our friends and neighbors."
To date, the organization has raised more than $5 million of the $6.2 million needed to build the new facility. The first floor will consist of a food pantry, clothing closet, laundry and shower facilities.
The second floor will be comprised of a year-round emergency shelter with separate accommodations for single men, single women and families, as well as affordable housing units.
Lack of affordable housing remains one of the biggest contributors to suburban homelessness, Ploger said.
"People are coming to us because they're being priced out," she said.
Losing a home can come as a result of divorce, layoffs, rent increases and spikes in food and gas prices.
"These aren't choices people have made," she said. "It's the cost of living. Some of these people work two or three part-time jobs."
During the COVID-19 pandemic, with many PADS facilities shuttered, Journeys provided hotel/motel rooms for suburban residents needing shelter. The organization provides rooms for about 100 clients per night. It continues to operate meal programs and supply groceries and other items to more than 600 people.
"Journeys is a reflection of the community," said Nabors, "and the community needs us."
Nabors, who was raised in the suburbs and still lives here, says homelessness remains a "problem people don't know exists. It's kept hidden because communities don't like blemishes."
The new facility will increase the organization's visibility and its impact.
"Journeys will be here when you need us," said Nabors. "Anyone at risk of losing their home, we're there for them."