We Energies has given $100,000 to allow Milwaukee’s warming centers to serve more homeless individuals when temperatures dip to 20 degrees and below.
[caption id="attachment_372046" align="alignright" width="367"] Repairers of the Breach, located at 1335 W. Vliet St.[/caption]
Milwaukee-based nonprofit Repairers of the Breach and St. Benedict the Moor, through Capuchin Community Services, can now provide overnight shelter to up to a combined 125 single adults on a walk-in basis when temperatures reach that threshold.
The donation is part of the efforts to eliminate homelessness, led by the Milwaukee Continuum of Care, a consortium of homeless service providers, government and advocates, including the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County.
The donation allows Repairers of the Breach to open their warming room an additional 55 nights this winter. The organization’s previous temperature threshold was 10 degrees. The organization, located at 1335 W. Vliet St. in Milwaukee, operates a day shelter from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and reopens for overnight shelter at 8 p.m. Sunday through Saturday under those temperature conditions.
St. Benedict the Moor’s warming center, located at 924 W. State St., is open from Dec. 1 to March 1, Sunday through Saturday from 8 p.m. under the same conditions.
Additional warming centers are provided by Adullam Outreach, Benedict Center, Divine Intervention - Tippecanoe Church, Greater New Birth Church, Guest House of Milwaukee and the Salvation Army.
In recent months, a visible downtown Milwaukee encampment for homeless individuals, located under the I-794 overpass at intersection of West Clybourn and North 6th streets, has drawn the attention of the community and city leaders. Milwaukee Ald. Bob Donovan and homeless advocates have held several press conferences imploring private partners to help fund a solution to the problem. The encampment has presented health and safety issues for those living there, including rodent infestations related to large deposits of exposed food.
However, a joint regional effort among the county, city and state has made “enormous progress” in connecting those homeless individuals to permanent housing, according to a recent report from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.
Abele said housing officials have helped more than 100 people who had been living in the encampments find permanent housing. Currently, only a few homeless individuals remain in the encampment, he said.
Now three years into its Housing First initiative, Milwaukee County is on track to formally meet the requirement of a “functional-zero number for the chronically homeless” in the community, which is defined as having more housing units immediately available than demand, according to a recent report.
The county-led partnership, which includes the city, nonprofits and other community members, connects homeless individuals with permanent housing, as well as wraparound services to address issues that may have caused them to become homeless.
Since the Housing First initiative began in 2015, homelessness in Milwaukee County has dropped by 42 percent.
In 2018, an annual "point in time" count found that 871 individuals were experiencing homelessness in Milwaukee County, 18 percent of whom were in an unsheltered housing situation.
Brother Rob Roemer, executive director of Capuchin Community Services, said he has seen some former shelter guests, who previously lived in tents, recently find permanent housing. However, there is still a need to increase warming centers' capacity with the current cold and snowy conditions, he said, noting that the number of people seeking shelter at St. Ben's jumped from about 40 to 70 following the recent snowstorm.
The We Energies donation will allow Capuchin Community Services to fund two employees to staff the additional overnight shelter nights, he said.
“It really makes a difference,” Roemer said.