Diocese defends homeless shelter occupancy

By | December 19, 2012

Prior to the press conference, Deacon Reilly sent a letter to Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt. The text included details about the operational plan for St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter, which was endorsed by the Green Bay Police Department and the Brown County Human Services Department. According to Deacon Reilly, the operational plan allows for overflow space to be used when the total number of guests exceeds 64. More than $50,000 was invested last summer to expand the shelter space to provide for overflow guests.

“Based upon the number of bathrooms and showers, the maximum is approximately 84,” said Deacon Reilly. “If we have more than that number, due to safety issues, we would want to transfer people to another facility.

“All of us would love to be in a situation where no one comes knocking at the door and everybody goes home for the night because there is no one homeless, but the situation that we live in, (is) people are homeless and they are coming.”

Alexia Wood, the shelter’s executive director, said the number of residents this season has ranged from the upper 60s to the low 80s. The number reported each evening represents those who come through the door. Deacon Reilly explained that some may stay for dinner and leave, and, in some cases, there may be a warrant against a person, so the police are called by shelter staff to remove that person. Even though these people do not stay the night, they are reported as residents for that evening.

“One thing we have to do a better job of is accounting for the net number, the people who actually stay and are sleeping there,” said Deacon Reilly. “Our numbers have been a little bit inflated as what has been reported.”

Occupancy was questioned on Dec. 10 at a special meeting of the Protection and Welfare Committee called for by Schmitt. Deacon Reilly suggested moving the standard occupancy up to 84, but the main issue to arise from the meeting was the need for a day program. The formation of a task force was decided as the next course of action.

Deacon Reilly offered prepared remarks at the Dec. 18 press conference directed at Schmitt, whom he said is the source of the opposition.

“(Mayor Schmitt) claimed that his only issue was that there is no daytime shelter for the homeless and then four days later, he unilaterally threatens the continued ministry of St. John’s for its nighttime operation as a temporary emergency shelter,” said Deacon Reilly. “The mayor’s actions show his unfounded belief that, if he can shut down St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter, Green Bay will no longer have homeless people.”

Dec. 19 marked the deadline to “correct the non-compliance” in response to the letter from the assistant city attorney. The shelter will not turn away the 65th person, said Deacon Reilly.

“I’m not concerned that the shelter will be shut down,” he said. “We will prevail. One way or another, we will take care of the homeless.”

Deacon Reilly added that he is open to dialogue with the mayor. He explained that communication with the mayor dates back to Nov. 2, 2007 when St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter was created.

“I indicated to him at that time that St. John Homeless Shelter was going to be started as an operation of the Catholic Church,” said Deacon Reilly. “We were going to take care of the people, think of the people first. Whatever we needed to do to take care of the compliance issues, the city regulations and obstacles that he may put in front of us become secondary to taking care of people who need shelter.”

Related Posts

Scroll to Top