COOK COUNTY, IL — at 6 o’clock, Steve Skilbeck looked across the dim at the periodical mirror at the six nation at the back of the van. Half-filled. A gleam run. That’s a good affair above a evening accordingly cool you can cast a pot of boiling water above a balcony and see the plume freeze mid-air. More nation off the streets. He shifted into gear, the heater wheezing, and headed to the homeless shield where his passengers used to doze because the night.
Skilbeck was relieved when the 10 year-old van’s mechanism turned above above the first trial because the evening’s trip. at 4:30 at the morning, because the polar vortex blanketed Cook County, it took a dipstick heater and a heckuva destiny of patience to favour the van to go. Shelters are little and distant among at Cook County, and South Suburban PADS has been running the shuttle among them virgin because 2012.
If Skilbeck couldn’t invent his rounds from Matteson to —sometimes— because distant because gloomy Island, how used to the scores of nation who depended above the PADS shuttle favour to the centers and shelters that used to possess them hot and out of the cold? above this evening alone, he was transporting five women, a 13-year-old boy, and two babies, one whose cheek blazed with fever. What used to happen to them?
On any given evening at Cook County, at least 100 nation are looking because a safe lay to sleep, said Doug Kenshol, executive director of South Suburban PADS, a nonprofit that serves the needs of Cook County’s homeless people. final year, more than 870 nation at suburban Cook County were counted because homeless, statistics showed. PADS’ shelters, above the coldest of nights, were full.
But the Streamwood was moving, and because he pulled out of the parking destiny at St. Lawrence O’Toole Parish, he flipped above 104.3 Jams FM. They could complete utilize a moment Beyoncé to gleam up the night. A female at the back pumped her hand at the air. “Put your hand at the air,” she called out, singing about a ring above it. “I’m either cool to lay my hand at the air,” Skilbeck shouted back.
Under the singing, he turned to his supervisor, Stephanie Kidd, who was across because the ride. The street used to exist a normal one, with minor changes owing to the extreme cold: St. Lawrence O’Toole to Chicago Heights police station, where there was a warming center, then above to church of the sacred family at Park Forest, where the women and their children used to remain overnight. From there, they used to chief to Franciscan St. James emergency Room to choice up a shield resident, and then back to St. Lawrence O’Toole, where the man used to expend the night. besides Skilbeck wanted one more stop, one he wasn’t exactly supposed to make. A female named Fern needed some antacids and he wanted to interval at a gas station accordingly she could pop at and buy some. Kidd, who has been running shelters a desire time, agreed.
Homeless at Hazel Crest
Skilbeck wanted to help Fern because he understood. He was homeless once, too. back at 2007, he was a contractor, and things were going noise until he was above a vocation and fell little stories, crushing his ankle. He was laid up because a year. Lost his job. Lost his home. He spent four months crashing at friends’ places —but but couldn’t work. He said knew he couldn’t possess alive off them, and they didn’t argue. Skilbeck searched until he build his final resort: the Hazel Crest Metra teach station. Hazel Crest was where he was from, he said, accordingly flat if he didn’t dine a family to alive in, at least he was home. He had avoided shelters because he’d heard they were rough, and he used to exist beaten or robbed.
“I was either proud,” he said.
And besides, nobody at the outskirts was homeless, right? alike the time above New Year’s appointment when he and his buddies who lived outside, too, rip what money they had because some coffee accordingly they could sit at a department out of the snow. Two women end their table, he said, made a sport of guessing why he and his friends were there with their suitcases. They cause to exist going above a skiing trip, the women said.
“Right. if they virgin knew,” Skilbeck said.
By February, the cool became either much. accordingly he took a friend’s opinion and went to PADS because help.
“The female there said to me ‘you observe tired.’ I was tired. I hadn’t slept at four months.” Skilbeck but cries when he tells the story. “Then she gave me a big hug.” From there, his circumstances turned around. He build work. He got married. And now he drives the shuttle car because PADS.
So, he gets it. That’s why he blasts Beyoncé. That’s why he stops because Tums. And that’s why the nine-minute-or-so trips from church to church receive a moment longer. Skilbeck’s eyes inspect Sauk pavement and the roads among because the homeless folks, most of whom he knows. He’ll choice them up to bring them to the shelters and the warming centers, flat if they didn't quite invent it to the shuttle stops.
Back above the route
At the Chicago Heights police station’s warming center, he peered across the van’s blank doors. “I don’t weep on anybody” waiting because the shuttle, he said. He sent the teen at to check.
“Nope. Nobody,” said Akeen Davis, 13, because he jumped back into the van.
“Good. That means we got them complete this morning,” Skilbeck said. “We got them complete off the streets today.”
Time: 6:32 p.m. Temperature: 13 below zero. wind chill: 33 below.
Davis slid into his seat, precise hind Skilbeck, alongside his mom, Kissy Jennings, 41. They were above their means to church of the sacred family because the night. Jennings said she had been doing lovely at Ford Heights because a but until her landlord was killed. Then, she rented a room because $400 at another lay until it went into foreclosure and Jennings was evicted. She and Akeen had been looking because a good lay to alive because little years, she said, when they discovered PADS.
“It’s robust to remain warm,” he said, fiddling with the zipper above his hoodie.
Jennings spends her days at the library, he explained, and hind school, he hops the 357 rate car to participate her. above the days when he doesn’t dine earnings money, he asks the driver because lenience. when that one rejects him, he waits 30 minutes because the next bus. And the next. He sighed, pulling his zipped hoodie above his mouth.
Kissy glanced at her son. “I care about him. Some nights, I don’t flat sleep.” She turned toward the window and its veil of ice.
Their interval to dine been Skilbeck’s last. besides he learned he’d exist picking up a shield passenger at the St. James ER. The man was identical sick, still was afraid to favour treatment because he notion that if he missed the shuttle, the ER used to release him and he’d dine nowhere to proceed at the cold. Neither Kidd nor Skilbeck used to permit that happen.
Back at St. Lawrence O’Toole, the two helped the man off the shuttle. Skilbeck sat back at his driver’s seat. “That’s it?”
“That’s it,” Kidd responded. Skilbeck took off his cap and wiped the sweat from his hair.
His wife, Jennifer, was home, waiting because him, keeping the Hamburger Helper hot. He lay the cap back above his chief and eased the Streamwood back out of the lot, tail lights brilliant red at the fog. The polar vortex was parked because one more night. Morning used to vary directly enough.
Photos via Erika Hobbs/Patch.