As the temperatures again took an icy nose dive into the single digits this month, the new Emergency Winter Overflow Shelter at Northview and Grandview Roads opened its doors and beds to those who needed it.
The shelter, sponsored by the Housing Action Coalition in Waukesha and The Salvation Army of Waukesha, opened Jan. 1, and will remain open seven days a week from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. until April 30.
Intended for homeless residents, the temporary shelter is based in part of the former Northview School/West Suburban Christian Academy building, a portion of which was recently razed. It houses those who need shelter after the beds in the Waukesha Salvation Army permanent men's shelter, at 445 Madison St., is filled to capacity.
According to a press release, the city of Waukesha and the HAC agreed that the Northview Road was strictly limited for use for one winter season, while a more permanent and sustainable solution will be developed.
“We are pleased to work with the HAC and the Salvation Army this year to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community have access to shelter and case management services,” Mayor Shawn Reilly said.
Andy Smith, communications marketing outreach for Salvation Army Waukesha, said that from Jan. 1 through Jan. 5, there were 51 men housed at the EWOS.
The Salvation Army shelter on Madison Street is usually full, particularly in these cold temperatures and in extremely hot temperatures. Smith explained even in normal weather, the shelter is typically at 40 to 50 men per night. He added there's more need than people realize.
The permanent men's shelter at the Salvation Army Corps building on Madison Street has 53 beds. The temporary Emergency Winter Overflow Shelter has 20 additional beds at the Northside/Grandview site.
From the HAC's standpoint, the need for additional beds is nothing new.
“The Housing Action Coalition has long been concerned about overflow needs and is working diligently in partnership with service providers, city and county officials for a long-term, stable solutions,” said Angela Mancuso, president of the Housing Action Coalition Board.
Meeting other needs
Shelter management and additional services, to ensure the safety and comfort of shelter guests as well as neighbors, are provided by the Salvation Army. Shelter guests are provided with sleeping space, as well as access to shower and bathroom facilities, breakfast, and hygiene products.
"We are pleased to be of assistance to our community in taking on this task of providing guidance to those in need of shelter," said Major Nelson De La Vergne.
The temporary shelter will have six trained staff members.
Guests will receive transportation to the shelter from local evening meal sites and back to the meal sites in the morning, which will control the flow of traffic through the area.
The men can partake in the Waukesha Salvation Army's Community Meal Program with a free, hot supper on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings from 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., and on alternate days eat at the free meal program served at the Hope Center in downtown Waukesha.
The men can use the showers at the permanent center and participate in the Waukesha Salvation Army's Hygiene Program, in which laundry and shower facilities are available for free from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays.
No alcohol is allowed at either shelter, which is open only to men age 18 and older. Men need a photo ID or a verifiable ID such as a hospital or jail bracelet.
Guests also have the ability to participate in case management programs that assist in moving people experiencing homelessness towards stability and self-sufficiency.
More help needed
Not surprisingly, the shelter program could always use more resources.
The shelter's budget for staff, rent, heat, food and other costs is $90,000. Donations are gratefully accepted at the Waukesha Salvation Army such as cash/checks, new or gently used sheet sets, blankets, pillows, sleeping bags and winter clothing. The shelter also requests protein rich snack foods like nuts, canned chicken, other canned meats, and trail mix.
Additional resources and space are still needed and the Housing Action Coalition and the Salvation Army are actively seeking donations to help fund this shelter.
People can make financial contributions online through the GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/housingactioncoalition.
For additional information about the EWOS, including opportunities to donate time or supplies, call Dana Baumgartner, shelter director at 262-547-7367, ext. 229.
"Your prayers for the success of this cooperative inter-agency shelter are appreciated, as they are for the well-being and health of the men being served," said Smith.