A set of dish towels or a tea kettle might be a thoughtful housewarming gift to a friend moving to a new home. How much more could such household items mean to a formerly homeless family or veteran moving into a new apartment after living in a shelter or on the streets?

For the holidays, West Suburban PADS and the Proviso Township Mental Health Commission are working to help 65 formerly homeless individuals and families turn their new apartments from housing to home. A household items gift registry has been set up at Target to donate cleaning and household items online.

The “House-to-home” gift registry lists items from pots and pans to silverware, bedding to toasters, shower curtains to laundry soap. Some items, like kitchen sponges, cost as little as $3.99.

The link is here: Target “House-to-Home” Kit Gift Registry

“Transitioning or moving into a new home can be stressful and we are doing our part to help families stay as stress-free as possible,” said PTMHC Executive Director Jesse Ross in a press release. “Sometimes the smallest things help the most.”

Since October 2013, PADS has helped a total of 83 people, or 65 households —  including families with children — transition into housing from shelters and the streets in its Open Door Housing program, said PADS Executive Director Linda Schueler.

Eighteen of these people are among the “chronically homeless,” who have spent significant time on the streets and in emergency shelters, she said.

PADS receives grant money for furniture from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). But household items are not covered, Schueler said.

Getting the ‘chronic’ homeless housed quickly in permanent supportive housing is a new strategy for PADS and other homeless advocates around the country. Formerly, clients had to jump through various hoops and meet requirements, but agencies discovered that strategy didn’t work terribly well.

“It’s very difficult to set high expectations on people when they don’t have housing and are living in survival mode,” Schueler said. “We’ve learned once they get housed, they can then focus on other higher needs they may have.”

The cost to taxpayers is $10,000 less when people are in a stable housing situation, with access to veterans or social service benefits, and regular medical care and social services, Schueler said.

“The cost of somebody getting into housing is much, much cheaper than the cost of someone out on the street with emergency room visits, or in and out of jail,” Schueler said. “Our work here is very gratifying — to be able to transform someone who’s been living in their car or out on the street and be able to place them in housing.”

Other housing is slated specifically for veterans or families.

According to their website, six of the PADS housing units are in Forest Park, with nine in Oak Park, six in Maywood and one in Broadview.

Schueler said PADS works with landlords to guarantee they have 24-hour help available with services as needed by the new tenants.

“Landlords like us because rent is guaranteed, and we are only a phone call away, 24 hours,” Schueler said.

According to their website, six of the PADS housing units are in Forest Park, with nine in Oak Park, six in Maywood and one in Broadview.

PADS springs into action the minute a person or family enters an emergency shelter, she said. “The moment they enter, they’re getting intake done and assessing their needs.”

Ideally, the organization strives for “rapid re-housing” because they know emergency help given right away can get most clients stabilized and back on their feet. Families are prioritized.

“We don’t want to see children in an emergency shelter any longer than they have to be,” Schueler said. “It’s disruptive; it affects their schooling, and their mental health.”

The Target registry was first suggested by members of Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park, who took on five new households as a parish project.

“They pointed out it would be easy to just set up a gift registry.”

Items do not need to be purchased at Target, necessarily, said spokesman Joe Vasilevski. People can donate or drop off “new home essentials” at the PTMHC offices, 4565 W. Harrison Street (3rd Floor) in Hillside or at the West Suburban PADS offices, 1851 S. 9th Avenue, Maywood. The deadline is Dec. 24.


Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...