Metro-East News

Longtime advocates of the poor are building a ‘drop-in center’ to help the homeless

A new “drop-in center” for homeless people to spend the night is being built in East St. Louis by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and is expected to be ready on Oct. 1 before winter weather strikes.

Men, women and children will be welcome in the overnight center, which is expected to cost $500,000. It is under construction next to St. Vincent de Paul’s outreach ministry center at 3718 State St.

“They’ll be able to stay all night,” said Joe Hubbard, vice president of the St. Vincent de Paul Belleville Council’s board.

The drop-in center is not considered a “shelter” because it won’t have beds and people living there. Instead, the center will have three-position, reclining camp chairs and give homeless people a respite from the bad weather.

Pat Hogrebe, executive director of the Belleville Council of St. Vincent de Paul, said the drop-in center will be a “bridge” to services offered in the group’s outreach center.

“They can take a long nap on that but we don’t have deal with beds, linens, all that kind of stuff,” Hogrebe said of the camp chairs.

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This is an artist’s rendering of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s overnight drop-in center that is under construction in East St. Louis. Provided

“This is a drop-in, it’s not a shelter,” Hogrebe said. “They’re not taking off their clothes, they’re not taking showers, they’re not moving in. They’re dropping in for the night.”

Check-in is expected to be from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. each evening.

Families with young children will be invited to stay in a room separated from adults.

“We will have homeless women and children because I have them every single day,” Hogrebe said.

A security guard and a St. Vincent de Paul employee will be on duty all through the night.

“It’s going to be well monitored,” Hogrebe said.

The drop-in center will have room for 50 people per night.

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Pat Hogrebe, executive director of the Belleville Council of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, expects the group’s new drop-in center for homeless people will be finished by Oct. 1. It is located next to the group’s outreach center at 3718 State St. in East St. Louis. Mike Koziatek

Hogrebe said St. Vincent de Paul serves 200 to 300 hot meals each day at the outreach center, which recently was renovated.

“The reason this came about is we’re having more and more homeless in St. Clair County,” Hubbard said.

Hogrebe said the overnight center is desperately needed to give homeless people a safe place to spend the night because they are often victims of violent crime when they are out on the streets at night.

Also, she said other overnight centers in the area have restrictions on who is allowed in the center, such as one only for veterans or another one that is only for women and children.

This new center will not have those restrictions.

Services in the drop-in center will not duplicate the ones in the outreach center but people who spend the night will be offered sandwiches, snacks and drinks.

Funding for drop-in center

So far, donors have committed $385,000 to the drop-in center, said Hubbard, who retired as the longtime director of Catholic Urban Programs.

St. Vincent de Paul still needs to raise over $100,000 to pay for the drop-in center and then it will need about $100,000 to pay for the cost of running the center each year.

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The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is building an overnight drop-in center for homeless people. The center is expected to be ready by Oct. 1 and it is next to the society’s outreach center at 3718 State St. in East St. Louis. Mike Koziatek

People who want to support the center can donate to the “tribute wall” in the overnight center, where donors will be recognized, Hogrebe said

“If I wanted a gift, I can’t think of a better gift that somebody could give me than to donate to something that’s going to keep people alive,” she said.

The Belleville Council does not accept government funding and relies on donations, Hogrebe said.

For more information, call 618-394-0126 or go to the group’s website at Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 3415, East St. Louis, IL, 62203.

Salvation Army in Belleville

While the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is working on its overnight center in East St. Louis, The Salvation Army in Belleville is continuing its plans to assist homeless people.

The Salvation Army wants to open the Center of Hope in the basement of its building at 20 Glory Place off West Main Street.

Homeless people will be invited to take a shower, get some rest and do their laundry during the day.

“We just wanted it to be a place that is open to anybody,” Salvation Army Capt. Claudia Simmons said.

A social service worker will help people with finding food or dealing with a person’s overdue electric bill. Also, a caseworker will help people with their long-term goals, such as finding an apartment or a job.

This center originally was called Hospitality House when it was proposed over two years ago.

An opening date has not been set for the Center of Hope.

The Beacon Ministry group of Belleville area churches is assisting The Salvation Army with establishing the Center of Hope, Simmons said.

For more information, call 618-235-7378.


Why did we report this story?

We wanted to give BND readers information about how metro-east organizations are helping homeless people.

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.