Walking Northwest Highway

by William Decker

Undoubtedly, you have met bicyclists pedaling and pedestrians walking and pushing carts alongside major highways during rush hour. While it may be legal, many drivers wonder—perhaps cursing out loud—how safe, and sane, it really is. It’s dangerous enough in the summer time and even more so in the winter with high banks of snow along the road. And don’t we all know how crazy some drivers, including ourselves, can get?

Those thoughts crossed my mind when I passed a couple on Northwest Highway as I headed toward Palatine during rush hour on two cold mornings during the week of Feb. 9.

The first time I saw the couple was in downtown Arlington Heights. Vehicles were moving smoothly from one intersection to the next. I was driving northwest when I noticed that cars to my left were slowing down and stopping. I quickly realized why. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a couple, one pushing a large cart filled with belongings, the other walking ahead of the cart. Both were just beginning to cross Northwest Highway from the Metra station even though they had a red light.

The next day I saw the same couple as I neared the Arlington Park Metra station. This time they were taking up most of the far right lane of Northwest Highway. I think that they had no other place to walk because there was no sidewalk near that portion of the highway. And, of course, they wouldn’t be able to push their cart through the deep snow.

I found out later that they are both clients who utilize services offered at JOURNEYS | The Road Home in Palatine. One of them has been battling mental health problems for years. Both are homeless. They were heading to the agency’s HOPE Center located at 1140 E. Northwest Highway. JOURNEYS sits in the shadow of two major industries: just west of the large U.S. Postal Service’s Processing and Distribution Center and north of the even larger Arlington Park. The sign out front reads “JOURNEYS The Road Home.” Until the middle of 2012, it was known as “Journeys from PADS to HOPE.” The reference to PADS resonates with many local residents who are among 2,500 volunteers working at 18 PADS shelter sites hosted by faith communities.

This nonprofit human service agency helps individuals, single parents, and couples with kids who are homeless or near-homeless. It serves 37 communities in northwest and north suburban Cook County, including Palatine and Arlington Heights. Out of the more than 1,300 residents needing services during its last fiscal year, 2012-13, it assisted 329 Palatine residents and 192 from Arlington Heights with clinical resources and basic needs such as food pantry, hot meals, clothing and other services. Twenty-three percent of the clients were children 17 and younger.

JOURNEYS wants to stabilize people’s lives through shelter, income and vocational support, healthcare, and housing placement. Why? So men and women and children facing housing crises can obtain housing or be freed from the fear of possible eviction or foreclosure.

To find out more information about JOURNEYS, or how to become a volunteer for it, go to www.journeystheroadhome.org.

William Decker is the funding officer at JOURNEYS | The Road Home, of Palatine.


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