BEDS was founded by a committed group of La Grange area residents. They did not have any formal human services training; they simply saw people living outdoors and decided to act. We started as a weekly shelter in an area faith-based organization. Other faith-based organizations soon joined in, bringing new groups of committed volunteers to support the effort. In 2017, we took in a second network of overnight shelters in the near-South Suburbs, adding more sites and volunteers.
Volunteers took on key roles, and their collective work formed the core of our organization. For example, our shelter program relied on more than 1000 volunteers across 15 locations. Every night, volunteers set up, made meals, supervised, and took down sites. Many were older adults, some of whom had medical conditions or family members with medical conditions. Their ages and health statuses left them especially vulnerable to COVID-19, and the pandemic outbreak and transmission made our group shelters unsafe for their continued work.
After Illinois' emergency declaration, we reshaped our shelter program to protect clients and volunteers. Motel rooms didn’t have the space or equipment to prepare healthy food, so many made and delivered meals and food boxes to shelter residents. Others helped people move into new affordable housing. And even more donated food, clothing, winter gear, and furniture. Their efforts helped us remain open during a difficult time for homeless service and other human service agencies throughout the country.
We currently have a variety of volunteer opportunities, including:
- Ogden Avenue Supportive Housing Front Desk: As people’s first point of contact in OASH, you can connect callers seeking help to assistance and direct visitors to offices or meeting rooms.
- Food Rescue Program: Many people experiencing homelessness do not have enough nutritious food. You can help assemble healthy lunches for clients in motel shelters or make daytime deliveries of food boxes packed with essentials to people throughout our programs.
- Events Committee: Proceeds from our fundraising events help people experiencing homelessness return to housing. You can work at our fundraising events and help organize restaurant and retail fundraisers.
- Employment Committee: People experiencing homelessness face hurdles returning to the workforce. You can work side-by-side with them to navigate online job boards and apply.
- Onsite Shelter Assistance: Living in motel rooms presents challenges for our shelter clients. You can join staff onsite each week to help them with living needs.
- Donation Drive Organization: Our clients need thousands of pieces of clothing, furniture, and other incidentals to make it back to housing. You and your friends can help gather these essential items.
Please contact Community Engagement Manager Erin Molek at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. Together, we can reduce and end homelessness in our communities.