WIUM Tristates Public Radio

New Homeless Shelter for Families in Macomb

Jan 24, 2020

Homeless families in Macomb will have a place to turn to without the worry of having to split up. Genesis Garden just completed renovations on the house at 307 East Carroll Street and plans to welcome the first families by the end of January. 

“I am thrilled. The house has a really nice feel to it,” said Melissa Calhoun, President of the Board of Directors for Genesis Garden, which is a grassroots organization dedicated to increased awareness and elimination of poverty.

“It (the house) feels comfortable to me and I’m really hopeful that it will feel comfortable and safe for families who come to stay here.”

Calhoun said she got involved in the homelessness issue in Macomb when around 35 families lost their homes upon closure of the Shady Tree Mobile Home Court in the summer of 2010. She said the case helped her realize the need for emergency shelters in Macomb as well as the need for family shelters.

She said all it takes is one unexpected crisis for someone to lose their home.

“The car breaks down. Or there’s a sudden job loss, which has happened to a number of people in this community. Or like the trailer park -- if your landlord suddenly shifts things on you and you don’t have resources to pay for a new space, there’s a problem,” Calhoun said.

John Curtis and Melissa Calhoun during an open house for Genesis Garden's new family shelter.
Credit Rich Egger

She said Genesis Garden received help from hundreds of volunteers -- including many Western Illinois University students -- to complete the renovations.

John Curtis, Executive Director of Genesis Garden, said the organization acquired the house in 2015. He said the structure was in good shape but it required some foundation work, renovations, and cleanup. 

“It had been mostly abandoned and it was a mess. We were able to take a house that was a real eyesore and make it an asset to the community,” Curtis said.

He called the shelter “a beautiful old house” and said the home’s location is a benefit.

“Somebody without a car can get to the downtown. We’re about 30 steps from Walgreens here. You can really walk anywhere from this part of town,” Curtis said.

He said the house can accommodate up to four families. 

Curtis got involved with Genesis Garden about a year ago. He ran for state representative in 2016 and 2018, and said the campaign opened his eyes to the level of poverty in the region.

“The day we open we can start to take some of the overflow families that are already housed in Macomb at the women’s shelter and create some more space,” Curtis said.