MORRIS – A sense of relief washed over the faces of Anthony Doss and his girlfriend Linda Coil moments after they signed a lease to their new apartment.
“This means no sleeping in the car tonight,” he said.
On the afternoon of Aug. 29, Doss and Linda Coil, his girlfriend of 31 years, opened the door to their new apartment in Morris after they had lived in their car, hotels, camp sites, rest areas and the Grundy Area PADS shelter for the past eight months.
“I am happy. We can finally have some home cooked meals and I’m ready to shower everyday,” Doss said.
Doss and Coil were the first clients of Grundy Area PADS to enroll in its new Phoenix Rising program. In 2017, Grundy Area PADS board president Phil Wardlow applied for a grant from the Department Housing and Urban Development to provide rapid housing for some of the clientele of the non-profit. This July, the funds came through and newly hired rapid rehousing coordinator, Denise Gaska got to work to find former clientele to house.
Grundy Area PADS was created more than 15 years ago when hot meals were given to the homeless in the area. The emergency shelter began in 2008 as the homeless numbers in the area rose and now those in need of shelter can visit Peace Lutheran Church, First United Methodist Church in Morris, a house owned by Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, and Living Word Bible Church in Morris. Each space welcomes clients a different day of the week, October through April, for shelter, dinner and breakfast on site and a sack lunch.
Phoenix Rising was a reference to the mythic bird that is consumed by fire then rises whole again from the ashes. The hope is to give those who have been homeless in the area a home where they can begin to get out of the pattern of homelessness.
Wardlow, Gaska and the PADS board met with local landlords to see if arrangements could be made to allow those who qualified for the grant to occupy an apartment. Gaska said they had a good turnout for the meeting, but many landlords expect pristine credit and many of these clients do not have the credit rating or may have a blemished background which would disqualify them for housing. With local landlords who can look past that and work with the client as well as the Grundy Area PADS organization, homeless residents can get a leg up and back on their feet.
Renters insurance was also purchased through Grundy Area PADS to take care of any property damages in order to protect the landlords.
Gaska said Grundy Area PADS pays for a percentage of the rent and the client pays no more than 30 percent of their monthly income, which is in line with Section 8 housing requirements and may be the next step for these clients when they are through with the program.
The Phoenix Rising program does not simply act as the mediator to match housing with the homeless, all participants must go through a program with Gaska in order to more forward. Wardlow said the stay can be no longer than two years.
“We want the client to move actively toward self-sufficiency, that is the key,” Wardlow said.
Once the client has agreed to be enrolled in the program Gaska will work on case management and meet with the clients once to twice a month to move them toward self sufficiency.
“We feel this is the successful way. Give them a place to live, and then help them keep the place to live. We will work on jobs, medical appointments, insurance and other benefits and they can be a part of the community,” Gaska said.
As Doss and Coil slept in their car, the radio played a clip of Wardlow who talked about the Phoenix Rising program. They called Gaska who told them the program was in the works. In Aug., Gaska called the couple to begin the paperwork. Gaska said those who apply must be truly homeless, in a shelter, car or on the street, not in residence with family or friends.
Gaska said at the end of the emergency shelter season in April, they ask clients what plans will be for the future.
“Anthony and Linda were my first call, because I knew they were likely to be homeless. I have been appreciative, any time I have called a meeting or need a document, they comply, doing what they can to better their own situation,” Gaska said. “It’s been a joy and privilege to work with them, it’s our honor.”
The apartment Doss and Coil rented were owned by Aldred Johnson and Gaska said he has been patient and kind to work through this process. “He’s been very cooperative and gave us a chance,” Gaska said.
“I’m so happy to not have to sleep in my car,” Coil said. As the couple walked through their first home in eight months, smiles beamed on their faces because they knew they had a place to share a home cooked meal, lie their heads at night, take a shower and work toward a new chapter in their life together.
For more information on Grundy Area PADS go to grundypads.org, call 815-942-3245 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.