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Helping Hands Project

About the Helping Hands Relocation Project 

On November 1st, 2022, Sangamon County and Helping Hands of Springfield jointly announced their partnership to establish a new homeless shelter in Springfield. The initiative provides emergency and transitional shelter services, as well as a range of day services, within a single facility. The proposal involved repurposing a formerly vacant portion of a building located at the East Sangamon County Complex on South Dirksen Parkway.

The project aligns with the strategic plan developed to address homelessness in Sangamon County. Facilitated by the Heartland Continuum of Care, the strategic plan brought together various stakeholders, including local governments, healthcare providers, nonprofits, and social service organizations. This collaborative effort, known as Heartland HOUSED, aims to implement a comprehensive community-wide strategy to end homelessness in the County.

To finance the modification and repurposing of the unutilized section of the building, Sangamon County utilized $9 million in funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). 

In January 2023, the Springfield City Council granted the necessary zoning changes, allowing the planning process to move forward. Following that, in May 2023, the Sangamon County Board approved bidding for the construction phase. Helping Hands began operations from the new location in early January 2024. 

Helping Hands Project FAQs

What services will Helping Hands provide at the new location, and how do these services differ from what is currently offered? 

As part of our expansion plan, Helping Hands will move all operations to the Dirksen facility and expand both the scope and range of services we offer. All clients will be assessed for housing opportunities and provided supportive services based on their individual needs. 

We will have onsite access to emergency shelter, basic needs (food/clothing/sanitation/laundry), primary and behavioral health, employment assistance, educational opportunities, life skills classes, budgeting/financial literacy, and referrals to recovery treatment options. We are working to help people address their barriers to housing and create new habits to help them be successful in their permanent homes.

Because we are expanding our emergency shelter, we will have the opportunity to work with women experiencing homelessness and connect them to housing and break the cycle of trauma that the vast majority have experienced. 

Helping Hands is simultaneously expanding the number of housing opportunities both within our housing programs and through private market housing navigation. This will ensure that those who utilize our shelter do not become stuck in homelessness.

Who will be eligible to seek assistance at the new facility?

Helping Hands exists to provide services to anyone experiencing or at risk of homelessness. While there are extreme circumstances where someone is not eligible for services at our facility (registered sex offenders, those who have exhibited violence towards staff or other residents), we continue to work offsite to connect everyone experiencing homelessness with the resources available in the community.

What are the hours of operations, and will Helping Hands staff be available for after-hour emergencies? 

At the Dirksen facility, Helping Hands will operate 24/7/365. Staff will be available at all times by calling 217-522-0048.

We will operate an outreach shuttle from 2pm to 10pm along an established route with stops at strategic locations around the city.

How many people can be housed and/or located in the facility at once? 

The emergency shelter capacity will be up to 140 individuals, including 30 beds of low barrier shelter for women.

Will there be a police presence or armed guards at the facility at all times? 

Helping Hands works closely with the Springfield Police Department Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and Homeless Outreach Team (HOT)  and has space available for the SPD Homeless Outreach Team to utilize at any time. Our staff are fully trained in de-escalation techniques and we have quiet rooms available for those who need a space to decompress while they wait for emergency services.

Most services needed by unhoused individuals, including the hospitals, bread line, and County/City Building are downtown - Why move the facility to Southeast Springfield?

In coordination with the Heartland Housed Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, Helping Hands is working to break the cycle of homelessness by providing a proactive approach to service provision. Rather than rely on uncoordinated reactive services, we are implementing targeted interventions that meet the specific needs of individuals experiencing homelessness. 

The Dirksen facility allows us to assess a person’s barriers to housing while providing for their basic needs under one roof. We will offer three meals a day at our new facility, onsite access to primary and behavioral healthcare, referrals to healthcare specialists and transportation to those appointments. This will alleviate the strain on overburdened emergency services and provide more individualized care to our clients.

We are also providing opportunities for healthy community and relationship building through mentorship, groups, and connection to peer advocates. 

Please see our transportation plan for more information regarding transportation to and from the facility.

Will the unhoused individuals be provided transportation to and from the facility?

As part of the transition to the new Helping Hands of Springfield facility located in the Sangamon County Complex, 2201 S Dirksen Parkway, we have developed a comprehensive transportation plan to ensure those experiencing homelessness are educated on services and have access to no- and low-cost transportation options. Due to the complexities of working with the unhoused population, we have developed a multi-pronged approach to our transportation plan.

Through a partnership with Sangamon County, SMTD, SMART, and the City of Springfield, Helping Hands is able to provide the following options for clients to access services:

SMTD Bus Route

SMTD has expanded an existing route to include a stop directly at the new facility. Helping Hands will assist all those who qualify with applying for a Benefit Access Pass through the Illinois Department on Aging. This pass provides free transit services to Seniors and Individuals with a Disability.

Those who do not qualify for an Access Pass can receive a Helping Hands ID card that is pre-loaded with bus fare specifically for this route. Clients will meet with staff weekly to assess ongoing need for transportation assistance and funds will be loaded at that meeting. Outreach workers will have access to bus tokens or transportation vouchers for first-time clients to access the facility.

Helping Hands of Springfield Outreach Shuttle

Not every client who will utilize the Helping Hands facility has the ability to utilize public transportation. For this reason, Helping Hands has designed a scheduled shuttle route to ensure those who need access to the facility are able to get there. The designated stops are designed to provide ease of access for people experiencing homelessness and are set at locations where unhoused individuals are known to congregate. 

The dedicated shuttle will operate 7 days a week from 2pm to 10pm, with stops at the following locations:

  • Salvation Army Corps-Clearlake Ave.
  • SMTD Transportation Hub-11th and Washington St.
  • HSHS St. John’s Hospital
  • Washington Street Mission/St. John’s Breadline
  • Springfield Memorial Hospital
  • Lincoln Library
  • Night Route SMTD Bus Stop-Taylor & Ash
  • Helping Hands of Springfield Facility Dirksen Pkwy

As part of this plan, Helping Hands will conduct dedicated street outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness and will coordinate with partner providers to educate them on the times and precise locations of these stops.

SMART has agreed to donate two wheelchair-accessible transport vans.

After-Hours Transportation

An identified community need for this transition is access to transportation after hours. As a participant of the Springfield Engagement and Empowerment Deflection (SEED) initiative, Helping Hands will work with TASC to ensure that those individuals who are identified through outreach and law enforcement deflection have access to safe, low barrier shelter as they arrive at our facility. TASC has identified transportation to available community resources as one of the services they provide.

Case Management Transportation

Helping Hands case managers will continue to provide transportation for approved activities. These include health care, legal, housing, employment, education, and benefits access appointments.

Don't most unhoused people have mental health and/or substance abuse problems? 

It is important to approach the topic of homelessness with care and avoid generalizations. While it is true that mental health and substance abuse can be contributing factors to homelessness, it is not accurate to assume that most unhoused individuals have these problems. Homelessness is a complex issue influenced by various factors such as lack of affordable housing, poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, and systemic factors.

Studies have shown that a significant proportion of unhoused individuals do experience mental health issues or struggle with substance abuse. However, it is crucial to recognize that not all unhoused individuals fall into these categories. Many people who are homeless may have faced unfortunate circumstances such as job loss, eviction, or financial difficulties, leading to their current situation.

It is essential to approach each person's situation individually and with empathy, understanding that homelessness is a diverse and multifaceted issue. Addressing homelessness requires comprehensive solutions that encompass affordable housing, supportive services, employment opportunities, and access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, among other factors.

If someone seeking services or leaving the facility is on my property or causing a disturbance, who can I call for help?

All trespassing or property damage should be reported immediately to the police. If there are individuals experiencing homelessness that need to be connected to available resources, one of our community’s street outreach workers will ensure they receive access to the services available. 

Helping Hands operates within a network of agencies dedicated to working with the unsheltered population in Sangamon County. This network is composed of representatives from law enforcement, homeless and housing service providers, primary and behavioral healthcare organizations, and outreach professionals.

For assistance, please contact Helping Hands at 217-522-0048 ext 103; Springfield Police Dept Homeless Outreach Team at 217-741-0981; or the Mobile Crisis Response team at 217-788-7070

Who pays for the reoccurring and programming cost of the facility, Sangamon County Taxpayers? 

Helping Hands operations are funded under a variety of sources, primarily through Illinois Department of Human Services grants such as the Emergency Solutions Grant, Emergency and Transitional Housing, Supportive Housing, Illinois Department of Public Health, and FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program. Additionally, we receive funding from the United Way of Central Illinois, the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, and philanthropic donations from the faith community and individuals who support our mission.

Will the facility lockdown at a certain time each time and prevent entry? If so, where is the person directed to go? 

No, our emergency shelter operates 24/7/365.