Ottawa homeless shelter looking to build larger facility to adapt to need

Agency looking at McKinley Road location

With the rise in unhoused people that comes with economic hardship, the Ottawa homeless shelter has purchased an empty lot at 401 E. McKinley Rd. with the intent of building a larger facility.

Illinois Valley PADS Ottawa shelter has 55 beds but two bathrooms, which Executive Director Carol Alcorn said is not reasonable.

The current facility is located at 1120 Canal St.

“We need more space to build programs,” Alcorn said. “We need more bathrooms because we have 55 beds to two single-use bathrooms and one small multi-use bathroom that fits two people. We’re growing so we can meet more needs, and that means first having more services provided.”

Zoning for the new facility will be discussed Monday, Jan. 24, during Ottawa’s planning commission meeting, and Alcorn hopes the new building will house somewhere between 50 and 60 people. Current plans, although not set in stone, would also give the new building room for six stalls and showers.

Alcorn said this need also is driven by COVID-19, and the new location will have isolation rooms that should take some of the pressure off, as it will no longer be necessary to search for alternate housing for them.

“We have not had any way to isolate or quarantine people in our facilities, so we’re building with that in mind,” Alcorn said.

The new building would nearly double the space PADS has available from 5,300 square foot to somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 square feet, with extra space that will allow PADS to do more than just provide shelter.

PADS was founded in 1991, first forming partnerships with churches to use their buildings to put mattresses on the floor before moving into permanent locations in both Peru and Ottawa.

From Aug. 15 until the end of November in 2021, PADS served 213 unhoused people, 15 of which were children. The entire year before that during COVID-19, PADS assisted 249 people all year.

“Does that tell you something?” Alcorn asked.