Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Kevin McLurkin
Paul Rilett is the executive director of Mattoon area Public Action to Deliver Shelter (P.A.D.S).
P.A.D.S is a non-for-profit organization that provides a shelter, support services and advocacy in order to assist homeless or high-risk families or individuals achieve stability.
Rillet has been the executive director since February.
While living in Chicago, Eastern Illinois University Professor Bill Duey needed help with a project and asked him to move down to Mattoon with him. While in Mattoon he was immediately hooked by the non-for -profit organizations, and because of that, applied for the position at P.A.D.S.
Rillet said that P.A.D.S is completely understaffed and under funded. It consists of two security guards, a treasurer and Rillet. Sixty percent of P.A.D.S funding comes from grants and its Rillet’s job to apply for them all. Most of the help he receives comes from grants from the federal government, local United Way, and surrounding churches.
When Rillet started working with P.A.D.S, it was just a relief organization through which clients could sleep, eat and leave. Now thanks to his hard work and dedication, it now has a soup kitchen and has an on going day program. A client can come in to P.A.D.S and get a nice cooked meal, a bed to sleep, access to a washer and dryer to do laundry and classes to help the person get back on their feet.
Rillet’s day program consists of case management classes in the morning and workforce development in the afternoon. In a sense, he is trying to change the perspective of how people view homelessness. He says his favorite part of the job is being able to meet and interact with someone homeless and actually treating him or her as a person.
Rillet said that his favorite part of the job is actually treating the clients like individuals.
“Homelessness does not define a person, it’s just a situation that someone is at a certain time. Don’t let people define you,” he said. “The goal of this organization isn’t to fix someone, or change them, it’s to provide people with an opportunity to get back on their feet.”
An organization like P.A.D.S can only survive with the help of the citizens in the Charleston-Mattoon area. Rilett said that help doesn’t have to come from donations of money; P.A.D.S can always use donations of food and paper products.
The P.A.D.S building is located at 2017 Broadway Ave, in downtown Mattoon. Volunteers are always welcome.