After 14 years of housing the county’s homeless population, the Harold J. Rust Transitional Center will be receiving some much needed upgrades.
Beginning on June 6, the center will close in order for workers to rehab the center’s facilities.
“The past 14 years, the center has been nonstop full and it’s time to make it better,” Salvation Army Major Rick Ray said Friday during a tour of the shelter. “It’s time to step up our game, so we can treat the people with more dignity and respect because this is their home. It’s just time to update it.”
Along with changes to the center’s interior, changes to the center’s programing and policies will occur after the center reopens.
Currently, the center houses men, women and children, but after the remodel, the shelter will no longer take in single men — to help keep safety a primary goal. Kim Ray said finding housing options for the men will be a challenge the Salvation Army and the city will have to look at in the future.
“That’s the next piece of the puzzle we are working on. That’s something that’s going to require a little more support from the community as we look at how housing works and keeping people safe,” Salvation Army RangerKim Ray said. “It’s a change. Unfortunately, it’s not the best change for them — it will be in the long run, but change is always hard. It’s something they’ve been preparing for.”
Salvation Army Major and Tri-County Coordinator Jesse Collins estimated that a new single men’s shelter area at the Rust Shelter would cost an additional $200,000.
“We have an option to do another renovation. It would require the city of Pekin and donors to be able to increase our annual giving by about $200,000 for us to address the men’s needs. Right now, it’s a safety issue and a financial issue for the Pekin Salvation Army,” Collins said.
Collins also estimated that on an average night 10-15 men use the center’s facilities, but said that the Salvation Army will provide bus rides for men to its Peoria facilities.
“Right now, we are in conversation with the city and we are going to make it a conversation in the community because with federal and state changes it has impacted the Salvation Army across the country and it has impacted Pekin,” Collins said.
According to Rick Ray, the center will receive upgrades that include new carpet, beds, expanded kitchen and laundry areas, new furniture and new drywall, exhaust vents, and floors in the bathrooms.
“It’s all about giving people more respect by making their home better,” Rick Ray said. “They’ve used it diligently over the years and we just want to make it better for them.”
While undergoing the remodeling work, Salvation Army officials are anticipating the center will temporarily be closed for 90-days.
The center currently houses seven residents, and according to Kim Ray, those residents have been counseled as to their options over the past months and have made choices on where to go during the closure.
“We’ve prepared places in other shelters. We’ve contacted other agencies to be able to help with that kind of thing,” Kim Ray said. “We have to temporarily close in order to update the program and facility and to make it a better place for people as they continue to regain their independence and self sufficiency as they continue on throughout life.”
According to Kim Ray, the center’s rehab will cost $53,000 and the work will come from a variety of volunteer sources.
“It’s really something we were already focusing on because of the fact that the shelter has been operating for 14 years and we’ve never stopped to refurbish anything. It’s really just time for a change of how we do things to line up with the national policies of the Salvation Army,” Kim Ray said. “We are depending a lot on volunteers from the community. They are doing a lot of the tearing out of the floors, the painting and the things that are basic, but the things that need to be done. When we move on to more of the skilled sets, then we will be using contractors and licensed workers.”