UPDATED 2;45 P.M. TUESDAY | The South Side Mission will close its shelter for women experiencing housing insecurity in the coming days.
The Rev. Craig Williams, the mission's executive director, said the New Promise Center shelter has experienced a consistent decline in usage over the past few years, despite efforts to reverse the trend.
“After much prayer and thoughtful consideration, we – the South Side Mission leadership team and the board – we just determined that the New Promise ministry will be phased out,” Williams said Tuesday, one day after the mission announced the closure.
“It was a tough, hard decision. But fiduciarily, we were responsible for our partners and donors and how we spend their money, and the impact of the ministry was not there anymore.”
In Monday’s announcement, Williams said the mission has been undergoing a “deep ministry-wide review” since the start of 2020, and the “desire to serve the needs of the 61605 community has never been greater.” Williams said the mission is working to relocate the women currently using the shelter to other locations, such as Dream Center Peoria or Peoria Rescue Ministries.
“We had partners that were able to come alongside us to be able to, my term is, ‘ensure that there was a softer landing’ for the individuals that had to be replaced or displaced at another organization here in South Peoria,” he said.
Development manager Rich Draeger said five women are currently staying at the shelter, one of whom has six children. He said efforts to arrange relocations are already underway.
“We started that process today,” said Draeger. “We actually invited representatives to come in and speak to our shelter residents, to our ladies, and give them some time to hear from them and from others – we're continuing to reach out to other partners, like the Salvation Army and other shelter ministries – to allow the ladies the time to talk with (and) to interview them a little bit, and to feel where the best fit is for them.”
Williams stressed the mission itself will remain open, and only the shelter is being phased out.
“That's just one ministry of many ministries that operate here at South Side Mission, and those other ministries will continue to move forward,” he said. “It’s just the NPC is the one that is closing, and we’re trying to make sure our public understands that the mission is not closing. We've had to make other tough decisions in the past that just weren't as visible as the NPC.”
Draeger said COVID-19 has played a role in the mission’s review of its programs and a “reimagining of the ministry.” He also left the door open to potentially bringing some sort of shelter back in the future.
“We do a lot with youth and families,” Draeger said. “We have a benevolence Center, which includes a food pantry as well as a clothing ministry for people in the 61605 that maybe don't even have the means to go to a thrift store, which we also have three of. We have a summer camping ministry that obviously got shut down this last year with all of the stuff with COVID.
“So it gave us some time to look at all of these. We have a deep desire to continue to reach out to all of those in the 61605 and anybody else that God brings to our doors. We really want to try to see what's down the road, what what's coming in the future. We may well end up having another shelter program down the road; we just don't know. But to let this program continue as it was, we didn't feel was the right road to go down.”
Williams said they are working to reassign current NPC employees to other open positions within the organization.
“We should highlight the fact of how great our staff have been doing their job and how they've been able to assist the women and children that came into our organization,” said Williams. “We didn't want that to be lost in all of this, all of the work that has been done with the families and the success of some of those that came in.”
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