Name a challenge one might encounter during their lifetime and odds are that there is an agency in Naperville or a neighboring community that can help or at least offer a referral for assistance. The range of social services offered by local agencies is remarkable.
Among those agencies are the Community Career Center, Family Shelter Service and DuPage PADs.
Community Career Center
The Community Career Center has been working to empower DuPage County job seekers to achieve sustainable employment since its founding in 1996. During the last fiscal year, the CCC assisted 979 clients in job searches, both at their Naperville headquarters and through partner agencies like libraries.
“While we do not offer placement services, we do help job seekers with their job search by working with them to explore new careers, write a resume, learn how to search for a new job, practice interviewing skills and get them connected to LinkedIn. We help each individual create their own unique customized plan of action for finding a new career,” said Kim White, executive director.
The Center has about 40 volunteers from varied backgrounds who meet one-on-one with job seekers and assist them in their individual quests. In addition, they hold workshops on everything from how to write a resume, to how to deal with the emotional stress of a job loss.
The Career Center works with all people in transition.
“We help people of all ages from 18 to over 65,” she added, “and get referrals from townships, local Chambers, Realtors, school districts and many others. We also work with companies or organizations that are downsizing to provide outplacement services to their employees.”
In addition, the Center offers a variety of specialized networking groups. “Networking is critical to one’s job search,” said White who estimated that between 80 and 85 percent of job seekers get their jobs through networking.
The Center receives its funding from local townships, county and city grants, as well as from local service clubs, corporations, churches and those who have benefited from its services in the past. It also holds an annual “Dancing with the Celebrities” fundraiser each September.
Family Shelter Service
The Family Shelter Service was established in 1976 to address domestic violence in DuPage County. It now has five locations throughout the county that offer comprehensive services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for those who need assistance, according to Judie Caribeaux, executive director.
“We assist approximately 2,000 adults and children each year who are experiencing domestic violence, and approximately seven percent of those being abused are men. Last year we had to turn away 1,500 more because we lacked capacity. In fact, we estimate that the economic impact of domestic violence on businesses in DuPage County is approximately $18 million per year in lost productivity and wages,” she said.
“Domestic violence is a non-discriminatory crime. We see it occurring across all economic, age, gender, race and ethnicity lines, unfortunately,” she said. “We hand out hotline cards, place posters in women’s bathrooms throughout the county and work with the county’s 33 police districts to raise awareness about available resources. We emphasize that this is a community of people who care about their safety and that of their family. There are other options to living the trauma of an abusive relationship.”
The Family Shelter Service provides shelters for those experiencing domestic violence with the average victim remaining in the shelter for approximately 54 days before finding alternate housing, Caribeaux said. They also help victims get orders of protection against their abusers by connecting them with court advocates, helping them find transitional housing, assisting them with finding employment and even allowing them to shop free at the Family Shelter Service Second Chance resale shops.
“Every employer has employees who are victims of domestic violence and many of them have had their productivity hurt by employee absences. So we are reaching out to all of the employers in DuPage County, as well as local police departments, the health department and others to educate them on the signs of abuse and to recruit them to offer support groups and other outreach,” she said.
Shelter from the weather and a place to lay one’s head at night are basic human needs that many more people than you might think find difficult to obtain in DuPage County. If you cannot sleep in a comfortable, dry place each night, how can you hope to progress in your life?
But the staff at DuPage Pads, which was founded in 1985, believes that the solution to homelessness is more complex than providing individuals with food and shelter. That is why they couple their efforts to provide interim and permanent housing with support services that will help individuals work toward becoming self-sufficient. These vital support services enable the individuals to receive case management and life coaching and employment support such as job coaching and engagement with employers – effectively stopping the cycle of homelessness.
As they say on their website, “DuPagePads IS the solution to end homelessness – because when someone believes in you, everything can change.”
DuPagePads offers 31 sites across Dupage County, grouped around the three commuter rail lines. They have a bed capacity of 160 every winter night and 120 each summer night with some sites dedicated to individuals and other set aside for families, said Carol Simler, executive director. They also offer 94 supportive housing apartments throughout the county so that in recent years, with case management services, DuPagePads has been able to reduce clients’ average shelter stay from 57 nights to 45 nights, she noted.
Last year they served 1233 individuals, 71 percent of whom were people whose last known address was within the county.
“We work to rapidly re-house our clients, most of whom suffer from drug addiction, mental illness or other disabilities,” Simler said. “A few years ago we received a $50,000 donation that we are using to help clients put down the necessary security deposits and pay their first month’s rent. By getting these people into permanent homes, we are saving the taxpayers of DuPage County $3.5 million per year because they aren’t going to jail or to emergency rooms.”
DuPagePads has also instituted a six-week medical respite education program to help the homeless who are ill or injured learn to manage their chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis and stay out of costly emergency rooms. In addition, their staff has recently been trained to address the debilitating effects of trauma because, especially in children, it can lead to mental illness and substance abuse later in life, Simler said.
“We work with over 50 health and human services agencies, 160 congregations and over 4,000 volunteers to help our homeless integrate into the community,” she added. “We are their coaches and cheerleaders.”