UPTOWN — An Uptown men's shelter that was almost closed in December will now be improved thanks to generous donations.
The men's shelter, operated by North Side Housing and Support Services in the lower level of the Preston Bradley Center at 941 W. Lawrence Ave., was slated to close Dec. 23. But a $300,000 donation in December was able to fill the shelter's budget gap, allowing the shelter to remain open for now.
Since then, the shelter has received more donations to fund improvements, including a $10,075 donation raised through a GoFundMe campaign started by activist Andrew Holmes.
On Friday, Holmes presented shelter leaders with the sizable check.
"I like to put my money where my mouth is and my mouth where my money is," said Holmes, a team member of Total Protection Consultants. "We decided to raise funds to help this shelter."
About 140 people donated to the 22-day campaign. The shelter also received about $1,000 from another GoFundMe started by local activist Ryne Poelker, said the shelter's executive director, Richard Ducatenzeiler.
On the week the shelter was scheduled to close, Ducatenzeiler was surprised with a call from one of the board chairs of the Reva and David Logan Foundation about a donation that would save the shelter.
"I was a little skeptical at first just because there was a lot of attention. But after I did validate that this person did represent the foundation and was very willing to make a donation to keep the program open we began having discussions about what that would look like," said Ducatenzeiler.
The unnamed board member was able to secure $300,000 for the shelter over three years, allowing them to reach out to the city for a contract for the next year. The city was then able to find funds that had been reallocated to "find replacement beds" and support similar programs, he said.
Despite the donations and contract, Ducatenzeiler does not know how long the program will remain in service.
"It definitely buys us time. It definitely meets our current deficit as far as being able to operate the program," he said, adding the City of Chicago usually issues annual contracts. "We still have to perform. We still have to meet our outcomes. We still have a lot of work to do on our end to make sure we’re able to secure a contract with the city in 2018."
The large donation will fund general operations at the shelter, and the GoFundMe donations will fund repairs like laminating the floors, painting walls, fixing up the restrooms and shower areas and hiring more staff, Ducatenzeiler said.
"I’m always surprised just by the generosity and the outpouring of help we received over the last few weeks and months. We are truly grateful to everyone that contributed," he said.
Holmes started the fundraiser with the mission to help not only the shelter, but also those on the streets and living under the viaducts, who reminded him "this could be us at any given time," he said.
"People are at home on a soft pillow, on a soft bed and these people are in the streets. It is cold and brutal down there..," said Holmes, adding two years ago he spent a night at Tent City, where you wake up "and birds are at your feet."
Holmes said its not only on the people, but elected officials, who "have to take this very serious, just like we take the gun violence and everything else."
"I’m happy and thank the Lord we were able to raise these funds to give it to the shelter to provide the help and care these people need, but we need more than that," he said.
"The city comes out, you clean the streets, you move them, but we need to do more than to move them and sweep the streets. I thank those that come out and feed them every day, [but] we need to do more than feed them, we need to get them off the street."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here.