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Bloomington homeless shelter ramps up winter prep amid staff shortage

The Salvation Army in Bloomington.
Ralph Weisheit
The Salvation Army Safe Harbor Shelter in Bloomington is ramping up plans for winter services.
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In less than a month the temperatures will begin consistently falling below freezing overnight. The Salvation Army in Bloomington will open its warming center when that happens so people without homes are not at risk.

Development Director Angie Bubon said the center and the Safe Harbor overnight shelter downtown will again have a cap on people because of COVID. Bubon said the Salvation Army is refreshing plans to find places for people to go if they don't have space.

“It will be another year of making it work and making sure everyone stays safe, but we collaborate well with other agencies in town and we were able to do that successfully last winter and anticipate it will be the same this winter,” said Bubon.

Need so far has stayed steady, though the Salvation Army said it is keeping an eye on what may happen when the eviction moratorium is lifted. She said that will affect all Salvation Army programs, not just the shelter, but the financial assistance program and the food pantry as well.

“We think the need will go up,” said Bubon. “We have already started to see more calls come … I think it’s people who know they are in that situation and are concerned that once the moratorium is lifted it will be a struggle and they want to get ahead of it."

Bubon said financial help can include a rent payment, a utility payment, and a gas card, bus pass or other transportation assistance. Those who receive the aid must meet with a case manager, Bubon said, to map out plans to address their longer-term needs and make sure they do not have the same situation the following month.

The Salvation Army is not exempt from the labor shortage that has hit many sectors of the community.

"I know it has been a bit of a struggle when vacancies occur to fill them quickly,” said Bubon.

For instance, the Safe Harbor Shelter alone has a regular staff of 12 but is down by about a third at the moment.

“Our Social Service Director and our Case Manager are all stepping in to fill those gaps and make it work,” said Bubon. “It definitely gets a little tricky, but those are vacancies if anyone is looking. It’s important work. It’s work that will make you feel really good about what you are doing.”

Bubon said the Salvation Army is not considering service cuts because of staff shortages at this time.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.