Permanent home for Fox Valley shelter on horizon

By | May 28, 2009

It would be the first permanent site for the shelter that first started in February 2008 at St. Joseph Church in Appleton as a place to come in out of the cold.


It offered basic shelter — a place to sleep overnight on the floor, warm drinks and some donated food. The warming shelter was open for three months that first season and served 67 individuals who did not meet residency requirements at the other shelters. This was mostly because of alcoholism, drug addiction or mental illness.

As fall 2009 approached, the shelter had planned to open a permanent facility on Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton’s northside business district. But concerns of neighbors caused the city to refuse to issue the necessary permits. So the idea of a rotating shelter came up and six parishes had offered their facilities by Nov. 1.

“We started out thinking we couldn’t get that building in Appleton and that nobody wanted it in the neighborhood,” said Vivoda. “But it turned out to be a godsend. Nineteen different parishes got exposure to us and fell in love with the shelter, and we have more friends now than we ever expected.”

Those 19 host churches included Catholic parishes in Appleton, Combined Locks, Kaukauna, Menasha, Neenah and Kimberly as well as Trinity Lutheran, First English Lutheran, All Saints Episcopal and First Congregational United Church of Christ, all in Appleton.

This fall the shelter will open a month earlier, on Oct. 1. Already, Vivoda said, all but six of its 30 weeks are scheduled at various volunteer churches.

During this past year, the shelter served 145 homeless individuals, including 20 women, averaging 13 people each night, according to Vivoda. However, instead of the number of clients slacking off as the weather got warmer, more people needed shelter. Vivoda said that on one of the last nights before its May 2 closing, the shelter hosted a record number of 25 clients.

“As the economy got worse, people were forced out of places,” said Vivoda. “It was people just like you and me, because the regular shelter was full. So they had to turn to us.”

Over the past six months, volunteers donated nearly 2,000 hours of service. Each parish served as the shelter’s home for one to two weeks at a time. Volunteers brought in food and coffee and laundry services were donated.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society, now a formal partner with the shelter, provided clothing vouchers for its store and the downtown YMCA offered its shower facilities to shelter clients.

Additionally, schools such as McKinley Elementary, collected donations of hygiene items. St. Joseph Middle School raised $1,458 through a classroom change drive to provide milk money for the shelter. And Xavier High School students provided blankets, pillow cases and cookies for the shelter, as well as a cash donation.

The obvious question with a rotating site facility is transportation. However, thanks to a loan, a 2006 8-passenger van was purchased. Vivoda took the van to the downtown library/bus station area at 8:30 p.m. each day to gather up clients. He returned them to the downtown each morning. Recently, a trailer was purchased for hauling shelter items from site to site each week.

For more information on the Fox Valley Warming Shelter or their capital campaign, visit their Web site at



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