The Rev. Ray Merkerson closed the homeless shelter in Streator on Friday after six years in the community.
Merkerson opened the shelter at 2126 N. Bloomington St. after he came to Streator to be pastor at the Richards Street Baptist Church. He said he realized a dire need.
“It’s a pair of vice grips on my heart to do what I’m doing,” Merkerson said. “I wanted to have this; I wanted my name tied up in this. That’s why I’ve spent the money.”
Merkerson has been running the shelter from his own income since opening it in 2013. Merkerson, who doesn't receive a salary from the church, is paying the mortgage and insurance on the building out of his retirement and Social Security. The shelter operates separately from the church.
The shelter had been closed recently for maintenance; Merkerson was in the process of performing some duct work. While working on the shelter, a question arose about city permits for the facility as well. The combined costs and permit issues fed into Merkerson's decision.
“I just thought, what the heck am I doing?” Merkerson said. “I’m spending more money on this and I could be using that for anything else. I could use it for the church. I can make a bigger difference elsewhere.”
Merkerson said there are currently no plans for the building.
People in need of shelter can be directed to the Public Action to Deliver Shelter at 1120 Canal St., Ottawa. The 50-bed shelter is open 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. daily. For more information, call 815-433-1292.