St. John Homeless Shelter seeks partner to assist with overflow numbers

By | January 17, 2013

Deacon Tim Reilly, general director of the Diocesan Curia and president of the shelter, said that ministry remains at the heart of all issues.


Deacon Tim Reilly, president of the St. John Evangelist Homeless Shelter, uses holy water to bless the renovated overflow area at the homeless shelter in Green Bay Jan. 14. Shelter officials held a press conference, followed by a free lunch and tour of the renovated space, to give media and residents an opportunity to learn how the facility is responding to an increased need for overnight shelter to the homeless. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“The key is that we have a conditional use permit that reflects our capacity for the ministry that the church has undertaken,” he said. “We’ve always been in this ministry to serve those who don’t have a place to stay during the winter months.”

The Jan. 14 gathering was held one week prior to students returning to St. Norbert College in De Pere for the spring semester. In late December, St. Norbert came forward to serve the overflow clients of the shelter following opposition from the city about the maximum capacity. When students return, the college cannot continue to house shelter residents.

Alexia Wood, executive director of the shelter, said discussions about overflow options continue with the assistant city attorney. Wood also recently participated in an initial task force meeting to address issues of homelessness in Green Bay. The task force is exploring ways to decrease the density of homeless in the downtown area. “St. John’s is providing guests with bus passes to assist with mobility around and outside the city of Green Bay,” said Wood.

The shelter’s operational plan, which was approved by the police department and case management of the Brown County Human Services Department, allows for the total number of guests to reach 84 through the use of a recently renovated overflow area at the shelter.

The city’s interpretation of an emergency situation differs from that of the shelter, said Wood.

“In that operational plan, we outlined what our shelter would do should our numbers reach 65 on any given night,” she said. “We of course, when we went for the permit this summer, used projections based upon the need that we saw last year and in the years prior, to set what we thought our number would look like this year and in the case of an emergency have overflow space available.

“Unfortunately, there is an emergency throughout the city of Green Bay and that need has been great on a regular basis,” she added. “So we operated in good faith that the operational plan outlined what that overflow would look like.”

The shelter is now reopening its conditional use permit, seeking to increase its standard bed capacity to 84.

Wood emphasized that no one in need would be turned away. The shelter is looking for a partner agency to assist with the increasing numbers and to serve as an overflow site. Currently, the shelter has an arrangement to send 12 to 15 women to First United Methodist Church in the event of overflow beyond what the plan permits.

Deacon Reilly echoed Wood’s explanation that the correct permit last year was 64, but that capacity was increased to 84 through the summer renovations.

“The permit needs to reflect that,” he said. “We are just trying to make sure that our ministry reflects what’s going on within the government.”

Wood reported that 28 percent of all guests served since the shelter opened this season have been transitioned into housing or long-term shelters. Thirteen percent of shelter clients are employed and 65 percent are actively seeking jobs.

“Our mission at St. John’s is to provide emergency shelter to the most vulnerable in our area,” said Wood. “Those with addictions, disabilities and mental illnesses who don’t often fit in traditional settings come to St. John’s as a last stop. It is and will always be our ministry to care for these children of God.”

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