Youth Help Restore Housing for Homeless

For sale signs are coming down and paint is going up on apartments that will become housing for low-income residents in Southern Illinois.

“It felt really good for us to walk past a for sale sign to paint an apartment and know that the sign was coming down; to know that a disabled resident would now have an affordable place to live because people in Southern Illinois care,” said Marleen Shepherd, Sparrow Coalition communications director.

Selling off property was one way that the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless stayed afloat during the year in which it received no state funding due to the Illinois budget impasse. In order to keep people in their homes, the agency was forced to sell some of its vacant property, reduce staff, and suspend services. But thanks to the efforts of private citizens, some apartments are now coming off the market and instead are being fixed up for new residents.

Area youth joined those of all ages in helping to clean up and paint apartments for new residents, which will continue throughout the fall. Youth were also among those who raised funds this summer for the organization. The Youth Group of Grace United Methodist Church in Carbondale spearheaded the Summer Youth Fundraiser with Sparrow Coalition.

The group raised $1,006.23 in cash to directly benefit the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless, and they collected 1,500 items to distribute to Carbondale’s two emergency shelters, The Women’s Center and Good Samaritan Ministries.

The summer fundraiser not only raised cash and goods, it also raised awareness of the importance of these organizations to the region, Shepherd said.

“Their efforts are greatly multiplied as we see an increase in private donations due to the awareness they raise. So really what they’re doing has a ripple effect with wide, wide impact. People are also reminded of how important these services are, and that they are still struggling due to Illinois’ budget fiasco, and will for some time.”

The temporary stop-gap budget means human services are only receiving about 65 percent of full funding, Shepherd said. Not enough for normal operations or to make up for lost services or rehire staff.

“We are working really hard to turn that around,” Shepherd said. The Sparrow Coalition is continuing to raise funds for the restoration of vital services to homeless coalition residents. All funds raised online in the month of August will go directly to the Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless.

Sparrow is also inviting other youth groups and clubs to organize fundraisers this fall. Groups can come up with their own plan, or use Grace’s model. The Grace youth group collected money and items needed by local shelters outside of area grocery stores over three days in July.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when we started this project,” said Jaci Arthur, youth director for Grace United Methodist Church. “I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming, positive response from those in our community. It was amazing seeing the community come together to help others. Every little bit truly did add up, and that one toothbrush or thirty cents really can make a difference in someone’s life.”

Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless Director Camille Dorris says she is thankful for those in the community who have raised funds and volunteered in order to help give people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless a fresh start. “Affordable housing, along with services that help people raise themselves up and overcome barriers and pitfalls, is so important to ending the cycle of homelessness.”

Those who are in interested in fundraising or in volunteering can contact the Sparrow Coalition at Those who would like to make a donation can do so at or by mail to Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless, 801 N. Market, Marion, IL.

SICH sign


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