Helping people regain independence is the goal of Lazarus House


As the name implies, the aim of Lazarus House is one of renewal.

“The goal is to help individuals find their way back to independent living,” said Sue King, a development team lead and grant writer for the nonprofit shelter at 214 Walnut St., in St. Charles.

It’s increasingly difficult due to a variety of factors, including a troubling trend.

“In Kane County right now, there is a huge shortage of affordable housing,” said Lazarus House Executive Director Julie Purcell.

People earning minimum wage or little more than minimum wage are not able to afford housing in the area any longer, she added.

They join veterans, seniors, survivors of domestic violence and others in a homelessness problem that, according to the Lazarus House website, has no singular “face.”

Purcell, her staff, some 1,500 Lazarus House volunteers and more than 50 partnering agencies are there to help.

Supporting the 26-year-old shelter’s efforts, readers selected Lazarus House as one of five recipients of the Daily Herald’s annual Neighbors in Need program.

A partnership with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, for each dollar readers donate the McCormick Foundation contributes 50 cents, meaning charities receive $1.50 for each $1 donated.



Since the Daily Herald and the McCormick Foundation initiated the fundraiser in 2021, Neighbors in Need has raised a total of $75,000 — $50,000 from readers and $25,000 in matching funds.

In fiscal year 2023, Lazarus House recorded 13,645 “nights of service” — overnight stays by Kane County residents who need help.

Lazarus House’s average budget to host one guest overnight is $115. Neighbors in Need contributions are likely to go toward those costs, Purcell and King said.

It began as a warm-weather shelter created in 1997 by founder Darlene Marcusson, then opened in 1998 as a permanent, 365-day site in the former St. Charles Free Methodist Church. Today, Lazarus House has evolved into a large, U-shaped building with an 80-bed capacity.

It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to residents from Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles and western rural Kane County.

The Emergency Shelter, its main program, provides shelter, three meals a day, shower and laundry facilities, personal hygiene items and case management to individuals and families. Case managers assess guests’ needs and can create a plan to address their issues and connect them to services.



Opened in 2006 as part of the Emergency Shelter, the Women’s and Children’s Day Center provides a safe, separate space equipped with indoor and outdoor play areas.

A Center for Transitional Living, opened in 2003, offers 12 dormitory-style rooms where qualifying individuals and families typically from the shelter receive up to two additional years of in-house case management. Its focus is enhancing income, job opportunities and skill development as guests work toward securing housing.

Homeless Prevention Services, instituted in 2008, helps people currently housed but need rental and utility assistance and other services.

For anyone in need, Lazarus House also provides a meal of a sandwich, fruit, chips, dessert and water at its door from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

A recent count had 41 individuals staying there. The shelter serves nearly 41,000 meals annually, King said.

Meals are donated and prepared by volunteers, faith groups and local businesses.

Providing safe shelter, food, and case management are the “nuts and bolts” of the mission, King said.

“Getting people back to independence. It’s a huge respect thing, everyone wants that,” she said.

It remains a challenge as the cost of housing continues to rise, “especially in the Tri-City area,” Purcell said.

To donate to Neighbors in Need, see


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