Suburb Donates Land For Homeless Shelter

Country Club Hills votes to lease acreage to PADS

After years of searching for a place to build a permanent homeless shelter, South Suburban Public Action to Deliver Shelter finally has the land it needs.

The Country Club Hills City Council Monday voted to lease PADS three acres for free for 100 years.

The land is part of 17 acres donated to the city by Prime Outlets, which intends to build an outlet mall south of 167th Street and east of Cicero Avenue.

The outlet mall is part of a larger project that would include a water park and a hotel/convention center, Mayor Dwight Welch has said.

Welch Monday said donating the land to the shelter will not cost the city anything.

"Everyone's said 'NIMBY' -- not in my back yard," Welch said. "This needs to be dealt with. We need to start taking care of everyone."

PADS serves 52 communities and is run by more than 5,000 volunteers. Some 33 houses of worship actively serve as homeless shelters, opening their doors to the homeless one night a week or more, and dozens more provide volunteers.

"This is a historic moment," PADS Executive Director Mike Wasserberg said. "This is going to provide fantastic opportunities for the men, women and children we serve."

A fund started by the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association already has $400,000 to help pay for the construction of the shelter. Wasserberg said about 12 suburbs have contributed to the fund by having residents donate $1 through their water bill payments.

Wasserberg has estimated the total cost of the facility at anywhere from $10 million to $14 million.

"We've been trying to find a place for years," said the Rev. Henry Roberts, a PADS board vice president. "It's been a struggle, but this is a very, very great thing."

He said some feasibility studies have been conducted on the shelter, but no architectural work has been done.

Roberts said the shelter could temporarily house 100 to 110 people in 87 300-square-foot rooms. The building also would include a training center.

Roberts said the shelter is very much needed.

"We're the only game in town south -- of Chicago in Cook County," he said.

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