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Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007 01:29 am

SOS open for business

New location, new security measures for Springfield homeless shelter

Untitled Document When the Springfield Overflow Shelter opens tonight, both the clients and the helpers will notice changes. The shelter, previously located at Helping Hands, has moved to the Salvation Army, 530 N. Sixth St. For the homeless, the new location means access to hot showers and close proximity to breakfast at either the Washington Street Mission or St. John’s Breadline. For the volunteers, it means an additional layer of protection — from them.
For the first time, the SOS is requiring its volunteers to submit to a background check — a measure that Jodi Sladek, volunteer coordinator for the Salvation Army, says is required by the national headquarters. “They have to fill out an application and a background check,” she says, “because even though they won’t be working with minors we do have youth in our building.”
Sladek says that more than 115 volunteers, undeterred by the new security measure, have signed up for SOS shifts, including a group of students from the University of Illinois at Springfield. However, one church’s members disagreed with the new screening process and decided not to return this year. Volunteers from Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation have been working with the SOS since it first opened, in 2004, but the Rev. Martin Woulfe says that they were concerned about submitting private information to the Salvation Army.
“They wanted us to submit a lot of personal data, including Social Security numbers,” Woulfe says. “Some people thought it would put us in jeopardy for identity theft.”
Woulfe’s congregation hopes to assist in other local homeless initiatives, such as the Sojourn House, but still supports the Salvation Army’s efforts with the SOS. “They have much greater resources and a building,” Woulfe says, “so that’s a wonderful step forward.”
The SOS is open 7 p.m.-7 a.m. seven days a week, Nov. 1-March 31. The Salvation Army is still looking for volunteers, Sladek says; 200 were required last year to run a successful operation.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com
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