Pillars seeks to prevent homelessness

Appleton agency’s director addresses Fox Valley Catholic Bible Study Group

APPLETON — On Oct. 1, 2018, Fox Valley Warming Shelter merged with Homeless Connections and the Housing Partnership of the Fox Valley to become Pillars. Its mission statement is: “From homelessness to coming home, Pillars provides shelter, support and solutions to address the housing needs in our community.”

Joe Mauthe, a member of St. Bernadette Parish and the executive director of Pillars, spoke Nov. 16 to the Fox Valley Catholic Bible Study Group about the new organization and the challenges faced in the Fox Valley.

Joe Mauthe, executive director of Pillars, an Appleton agency that addresses homelessness, speaks to the Fox Valley Catholic Bible Study Group Nov. 16. (Amanda Lauer | For The Compass)

Pillar’s mission fits in with the challenge made to the Bible study group when it was started in 1977 by the group’s facilitator, Fr. Bill Alcuin. “The theme of Matthew was establishing God’s kingdom on earth,” said Jim Hyde, a member of St. Bernadette Parish in Appleton and charter member of the Bible study group. “(Fr. Alcuin) issued this challenge, ‘What can we do to establish that kingdom here in the Valley?’”

Members took that challenge to heart and because of that, numerous non-profit groups were formed over the last 40 years in the Fox Valley and beyond, including Community Clothes Closet, COTS, St. Joseph Food Pantry, FISC, Fox Valley Warming Shelter, LEAVEN, and Loaves & Fishes.

In his presentation, Mauthe said that homelessness and poverty are issues plaguing the area.

“Every year we do two ‘point-in-time’ counts, where we count everybody who is literally homeless — either in a shelter, in one of our programs, or on the street,” said Mauthe. “There are 300 to 350 people every time we do a count. What we see growing is the number of people on the street. In a given school year, 390 students experience homelessness. It’s a great community but it doesn’t mean we don’t have our challenges as well.”

Pillars provides 133 beds on a daily basis for people who are experiencing homelessness.

“That’s about 55 mats on the floor at Pillars Adult Shelter and 78 beds at Pillars Adult & Family Shelter, plus dinner and breakfast, shower facilities, a place for people to wash their clothes, and varying levels of case management,” he said. “We also provide homes for 150 households per day.”

The Fox Valley Bible Study Group has been integral in looking for solutions to this issue, according to Mauthe.

“If that is not the corporal works of mercy in action, then I don’t know what is,” he said. “This is our faith’s response to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the prisoners, bury the dead, and give alms to the poor.”

The ultimate objective for Pillars is to prevent homelessness in the Fox Valley.

“Our goal is to have empty shelters,” said Mauthe. “When you get the chance to put a key to a front door into somebody’s hand who hasn’t had that before, that changes everything. At the core of all of this is that it’s our role to find the dignity in the people we serve, recognize that they are currently going through trials, and do our part to help them move through that to a better place.”