It’s 7 a.m. with a windchill of 15 below in Chicago. The last of 20 overnight shelter guests left the building at 6:45 a.m. Used bedding, stuffed into large laundry bags, is ready for pickup; it will be returned, clean, for tonight.

Two morning shift volunteers, along with the Interfaith Action of Evanston staff member who spent the night, spray down the cots, collect lost and found, clean the bathrooms, take out the trash. They discuss the upcoming move of the shelter to a new place of worship after three weeks in the lower level of First Church. The staff member mentions the need for more volunteers. The pandemic made everything harder.

Many of the guests are heading over to the hospitality center at St. Mark’s Church — and then perhaps over to Hilda’s Place, a drop-in center run by Connections for the Homeless. The shelter opens again this evening.

One guest, a familiar figure from Evanston streets and parks, carries two stuffed bags and pulls a two-wheeled cart laden with other belongings as he walks solo toward the lakefront.

The sky is brightening over Lake Michigan. It is beautiful but frigid. Prayers for these shelter guests and all persons experiencing homeless.