Manitowoc’s Hope House homeless shelter will not vacate church site

Shelter works with parish and diocese to keep facility open

MANITOWOC — A Manitowoc homeless shelter is no longer scrambling to find itself a new home.

Hope House of Manitowoc County has been housing homeless families and single women in the rectory at St. Boniface Church since 2010. Earlier this year, the non-profit program’s office operations were moved into the adjacent church building, allowing more room in the rectory for families.

Hope House of Manitowoc County has been housing homeless families and single women in the rectory of St. Boniface Church since 2010. A termination of lease notice was averted following a meeting between shelter officials, St. Francis of Assisi Parish and the Diocese of Green Bay. (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)

Hope House can accommodate about 16 individuals (roughly four to five families), but there are nearly 20 more households on the waiting list. Hope House personnel were hoping to remodel the church and create additional bedrooms for families.

But a few weeks ago, Hope House received a termination of lease notice from Manitowoc’s St. Francis of Assisi Parish that would have required the shelter to vacate the church by Jan. 31, 2016.

Hope House director Erin Schultz said the announcement came as a shock to her and would have left her scrambling to find shelter for the homeless families she assists, since it would have meant leaving the rectory as well due to space constraints.

However, a meeting last month between representatives of Hope House, St. Francis of Assisi Parish and the Diocese of Green Bay put some of those concerns to rest for the near future.

According to a statement that was released, it was determined that the care of homeless families is a top priority, not only for Hope House but the parish and diocese.

Bishop David Ricken shared with the group the process that must be followed for St. Boniface Church to be declared “secular” and available to offer services like those provided by Hope House.

With regard to St. Boniface Church, it was announced that process was appealed locally, and as a result any lease/purchase agreement for the permanent use of the church space by Hope House had to be terminated by St. Francis of Assisi Parish. In addition, as a result of the appeal, any alteration to the church proper and the removal of any church religious items needed to stop.

The following items were drafted as part of an understanding of the meeting:

  • Any outcome for addressing the St. Boniface/Hope House situation must be a win-win for all the parties involved, first and foremost the homeless families served by Hope House.
  • The Diocese of Green Bay supports St. Francis of Assisi Parish and Lakeshore Interfaith Hospitality Network in looking for a new site that will better suit the necessary Hope House planning for growth into the future.
  • Hope House and St. Francis of Assisi Parish should re-establish the agreement held previously for the use of the St. Boniface rectory, along with the two office spaces and the church proper for storage. This agreement would be in place for a two-year period until a new place of housing and operations for Hope House is obtained.
  • The religious items in the church proper are to be restored to their original setting and stored as best as possible; minimally the religious articles are to be protected from any damage or deterioration.
  • Until a new site is secured, the church proper will not be used for any parish liturgical services or events so as to respect the privacy of Hope House and its outreach to homeless families.