GREEN BAY — All is fairly quiet now at the Women’s Shelter of St. John’s Ministries, located at 700 E. Walnut St. near downtown Green Bay.
The 2022-2023 shelter season closed on April 30.
This past season marked the first in which St. John’s operated separate women’s and men’s shelters to provide for those who otherwise have no place to stay.
“One thing that we learned this season, which we didn’t expect because we didn’t have a women’s shelter only, is the importance of that one-on-one contact, female to female,” said Steve Schauer, director of community engagement for St. John’s Ministries. “(The women) were able to feel more comfortable to talk about their situations, what they are going through, whether it’s a traumatic situation, domestic abuse or a landlord jacked the rent up. They were able to talk about it more freely.
“It was the same thing over at the men’s shelter, not having the personality dynamics of men and women together,” he told The Compass while providing a tour of the women’s facility. “Things were a lot calmer this year. There was a lot more success at the men’s shelter as well.”
“Having the women separate from the men removed the distraction of relationship building with the men,” said Courtney Mabie, a case manager at the women’s shelter and Wellspring, the adjoining daytime resource center. “They are able to focus on themselves, focus on the barriers they need to knock down in order to be forward-moving in their journey.”
St. John’s Ministries served 602 guests during the shelter season, which began Nov. 1. The women’s shelter consistently averaged 35 to 37 guests per night, while guests at the men’s shelter, located at 411 St. John St., fluctuated between 70 and 90 per night.
Women only had two available showers at the St. John Street site. The new women’s shelter has seven showers and seven sinks. A large common sleeping area is outfitted with 55 beds. The shelter also features an “Empowerment Room” with eight beds.
“(The Empowerment Room) is an additional program at our shelter that ladies are able to apply for,” said Mabie. “It’s for ladies who are in recovery, working on mental health, a part of an AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) program, to really rally behind them.
“There is added accountability for those ladies,” she continued. “Tamieka (Hughes-Foote, case worker) provides coaching to them. Part of our mission is to provide dignity to whoever comes here. This space provides a little bit more dignity. They have their own bed and a space to call their own.”
Wellspring, formally located on Dousman Street in Green Bay, opened at the new location on July 6, 2022, and has triple the space of the former facility.
The Walnut Street location was once home to the Micah Center, a daytime resource center now located at 612 Stuart St. in Green Bay. Wellspring features an art room, sitting lounge, conference room with a piano, computer lab, commons space and warming kitchen. The daytime resource center is open year-round.
“We found that art is a really good connection on a lot of fronts,” said Schauer. “It’s an outlet to tell their stories, express themselves. Guests also use (the art room) for the farmers market, to sell their art as a side business.”
Breakfast and dinner are served in the commons area daily during the shelter season. The rest of the year, meals provided in the space are dependent on the availability of food and volunteers, said Schauer.
“When we step into this room (commons) a lot of times it’s full, from volunteers to staff members to donors to those who are homeless, and you can’t tell between them,” he said. “There is no face to homelessness. Everyone is trying to help each other.”
Mabie, who has worked for St. John’s Ministries for nearly four years, helped lead the transition to the new space.
“We really tried to keep in mind the best atmosphere for our guests — the lady who might have trauma, who might have addiction, mental health struggles. How can we provide a welcoming and warm environment to best serve them?” said Mabie.
The case workers serve both women who utilize the shelter and a small percentage who are currently housed and utilize support resources at Wellspring so they stay in their housing, said Mabie.
“We build a relationship with the ladies who are staying with us,” she said. “We see them every day. We are the number one support for a lot of them because they don’t have family or friends to turn to.”
Services provided by St. John’s Ministries are fully supported through donations, said Schauer.
Area homelessness continues to grow, he added.
“There are a lot of people in the community who are (living) check to check, one incident, a car accident or medical bill, from showing up,” he said.
“We estimate that 25% of guests in shelters are employed making a living wage, but they can’t find housing,” Schauer added. “There is a lack of affordable housing. If you’re in a shelter and trying to find housing, there is a higher percentage that you have an eviction on your record, have no vehicle, no savings, no credit score or were in jail at some time. All these things add up.”
While the need for services will continue, there are plenty of guest success stories to celebrate, said Schauer.
“They come in broken and leave repaired in some fashion, possibly through mental health counseling or finding housing or employment,” he said. “When we see them at the worst time in their life and they leave with a smile, that’s success.”
For more information about the St. John’s Ministries’ shelters and daytime resource centers, and ways to provide support, visit stjohnsgreenbay.org.