The unhoused population find helping hands at Lazarus House


Sophia Smallwood

Lazarus House, located in downtown St. Charles, is a shelter for the unhoused. Photo by Sophia Smallwood

Sophia Smallwood, Editor-In-Chief

With winter quickly approaching, many are beginning to cozy up in warm blankets as well as crank up the heat in order to shelter from the cold. However, the same can’t be said for the unhoused population in our community.
Homelessness has been an issue that hits close to home for our neighborly community for years, as the effects it leaves behind are evident.
Lazarus House, an organization in the heart of downtown St. Charles, is committed to helping the unhoused population in St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia and rural Kane County by providing a place to stay, a safe haven for women and children, hot meals, and a sense of community within their house, according to Katie Collins, a case manager for the center for transitional living for the organization.
“[Lazarus House] was created by a woman named Darlene. She rented an old church and it all grew from there,” said Collins.
“We had a lot of homeless people in St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia, and people were surprised at that because it’s an affluent place to live,” said Collins.
Lazarus House not only provides a roof over their guests heads, but also prioritizes their safety and well-being.
“We are a sober facility, and that makes us a little different from other shelters in the sense that you have to be sober at our shelter,” detailed Collins. “We do not accept anyone who is a sex offender and has an extremely violent past. If we can’t support you in your stay at Lazarus House, we’ll refer [you] to an agency that we partner with,” Collins said.
The pandemic has had a great impact on all demographics, but especially the homeless population. “During Covid we did our best to continue to service our emergency shelter guests, so we moved them into a hotel,” Collins said.
“We saw a huge flood of individuals we don’t typically see or know through our food only program, so families that didn’t necessarily struggle with being food-deprived were being food deprived.”
Although the pandemic brought on unexpected hardships for many people who were understandably unprepared, putting them in a difficult spot when it came to housing, bills, food, and clothing, some good did come out of the pandemic as well.
“We were able to do some things to the house to remodel because we didn’t have all the guests right there,” Collins stated. Lazarus House was able to remodel their kitchen and expand their women and children’s sleeping area to allow for better living conditions for the guests.
Additionally, the amount of community support during the pandemic to help the unhoused population was abundant. “We also saw an uptake in our community stepping up to help these individuals, we were receiving a great amount of donations which we are super thankful for,” said Collins.
There are many things students at St. Charles East can do to further help the unhoused population in their community.
“It’s the younger generation we want to touch and we want to enlighten, we want you to show up and experience the beauty of volunteering,” Collins said. One way to help is donating items on the “urgent needs” list on Lazarus House’s website,
“It can also be as simple as volunteering your time. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose project, it can be just coming in and sitting at our table on a routine basis helping our staff serve dinner or having conversation,” said Collins.
“Our theme is really neighbors helping neighbors, and we really tell our volunteers we can’t do this without them,” said Collins.
“Anybody can end up here, these are your neighbors. It really is the kid sitting next to you at school.”