Hope for the homeless - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Hope for the homeless

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

Homelessness is something that knows no bounds, it doesn't discriminate. Not by by age, gender or race. 

It can affect anyone, at anytime.

"Go out, pan handle some money, go get drunk." said Scott Schneider.

"I have a felony background, I did some time in d.o.c and in jail." said Josh Breuer. 

And it can affect any area, with Winnebago and Boone Counties being no exception. That's why on a given cold, winter night, Pastor Dave Fredrick finds anywhere from 30 to 50 homeless people inside his church.

"We open up the doors of our church all night long, where people who don't have a place to stay, can come." said Pastor Dave Frederick of the Apostolic Pentecostals Church in Rockford. 

That's where you'll run into Scott Schneider and Martel Ellys on most nights, just trying to stay warm. 

Though their stories of homelessness are vastly different. 

"My dad died when I was 3, my mother was a chronic alcoholic, which lead me to be a chronic alcoholic." said Schneider. 

"Just financial troubles. Being in between jobs, couldn't keep up with my rent." said Ellys.

The Apostolic Pentecostals Church of Rockford gives them a place to call home for the night, and hope for a new, brighter future.

"It gives me spirit. something to look forward to the next day." said Schneider.

While Pastor Dave works with the Rock River Homeless Coalition to be part of the temporary solution to homelessness in our area, he says his church is also part of the problem.

"We probably are enabling some to stay where they are, and so is everybody else that's helping. But you still have to help people, even if that's what they want, is to be enabled." said Frederick.

The doors are always open. But in the eight years since Frederick opened them, he says the numbers have never declined.

"Our record is 57, but last year our average was around 38, and we're around 40 this year. So I don't see it as less, I see it as more." said Frederick. 

But according to the coalition, the homeless population has seen 63% decline over the last five years. Down from 727 in 2012, to just 291 in 2017.  

A big part of those numbers coming from the "Point in Time" count. One night a year where the coalition pound the pavement in search of those out on the streets, and inside shelters. 

"The opportunity to take a snapshot of the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in our community." said Todd Kisner, the chair of the Rock River Homeless Coalition.

Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2015, which provided an electronic survey system, the point in time count was revamped. 

"The survey actually being on our phones, on tablets it makes it a lot easier in the sense of completing it." said Kisner.

Kisner says the count isn't always the most accurate.

"There are people we don't get to survey that night, so there could be more to the numbers."

But, he says it is the best bet at finding the number of homeless in our community, and helping them land back on their feet. Josh Breuer is proof of just that.

After leading a life of crime, Josh says his family's doors were closed.

"They were there. But I shut them on myself." said Breuer.

Struggling to support himself, Josh lost all of his money on a failed business, and then found himself homeless for more than eight years. But a little over a year ago, something clicked.

"Seeing my friends on the street die, it finally clicked, hey I need to do something or I'm gonna be one of those people that pass away just trying to stay warm." said Breuer.

Now, thanks in part to the help of the coalition, he is a homeowner, and married with two dogs. 
 
"I feel amazing, it's definitely a different situation."

While this is just one happy ending, there are still hundreds without homes on the streets of Winnebago and Boone Counties, a number the coalition hopes to get down to zero. 

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