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DreamCenter Still Learning after One Year of Homeless Shelter

PEORIA - A year after taking over the city's emergency homeless shelter, DreamCenter Peoria says it is shocked by the growing need in the community.
PEORIA - A year after taking over the city's emergency homeless shelter, DreamCenter Peoria says it is shocked by the growing need in the community. Still, it is giving hundreds of families a chance to bounce back on their feet. People like struggling father, Carlus Martin.
Since August, life has been a whirlwind for Martin, of California.
"I happened to lose my job for one month and turns around I had to sell everything in my home to pay my rent," he said.
Eventually, he ran out of options and was forced to move out of his home. He moved to Illinois to find a better opportunity for work, but he has not been lucky. In September, he started staying at DreamCenter emergency shelter with his 8-year-old daughter while he looks for work. She attends school during the day. After school, they travel to Salvation Army for a meal and return to the shelter. It is not the life he imagined.
"It's like […] a let down,” he said while tearing up. “You have an 8-year-old, you raised ever since she was four and you lose everything and now you're here.”  
His story is one of nearly 370 other people who have used the shelter since it opened in 2012. This weekend marks one year since the DreamCenter took over when the YWCA closed its doors. Director Andy King has been most surprised by the number of children without a home. The average age for the shelter is under 12 years old because majority of the people in need are children.  
"We thought it'd be you know the ladies that have been chronically homeless that are on the streets but we never thought we'd see the amount of kids that we see," said King.  
According to King, there are also more fathers like Martin. He is the first person to volunteer and clean the shelter every day. It is his way of giving back and being an example for his child.
“You have to keep it clean. Somebody else has to be here to help these people out too," he said.  
He desperately wants to return his daughter into a home, and says once he does, he will do anything possible to give back to the shelter.
"I have to find work. Keep food on the table for my child. It's not that easy. California did not have that help, but I chose to be here and Peoria gave me that help," he said.  
Martin, a former security guard, has lived at the shelter for nearly two weeks and is applying for jobs in the area.
 
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