Appleton parish opens homeless shelter
Need for shelter arises after Salvation Army closes its facility
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
APPLETON -- A new door is open for homeless men and women in the Fox Cities.
The Fox Valley Warming Shelter began service on Feb. 8. St. Joseph Parish is housing the shelter through the end of April. A permanent location is being sought.
The formation of the shelter organization began in March of 2007, after the Salvation Army in Appleton ceased its shelter services.
"We wanted to rent the space (at the Salvation Army)," said Don Stoegbauer, a member of the shelter leadership team. "We would have run the program."
The request was denied, so the group searched for a new location. St. Joseph Parish stepped forward.
"(Capuchin) Fr. Larry Abler (pastor) had a very sensitive attitude about helping these people in need," said Therese Janssen, volunteer coordinator for the shelter. "We worked with his parish council."
The organization, Fox Valley Warming Shelter, Inc., registered as a 501(C)(3) non-profit and secured liability insurance. The leadership team consulted with Fr. Guy Blair, pastor at St. John the Evangelist Parish, which houses the homeless shelter in Green Bay.
The shelter operates in the St. Joseph Parish gathering room. The facility cannot open until 9 p.m. each evening due to parish activities. It will not be available on Holy Thursday or Holy Saturday. The leadership team is seeking other arrangements for those two nights, said Stoegbauer, a member of St. Paul Parish, Combined Locks.
"It is truly a warming shelter," he added. "We do not have showers. We do not have a washer or dryer. Some volunteers take extra clothes, from the clients who have extra clothes, home to wash them. We've been serving seven or eight people each night. These are people who do not qualify for assistance at other facilities."
A warm meal is served each evening, and continental breakfast items are available in the mornings. The shelter operates until 8 a.m.
The warming shelter opened with a minimum budget, so St. Joseph parishioners donated food for meals.
"Fr. Larry stimulated a wonderful response from the parish," said Janssen. "Volunteers made soup to serve. The parish also collected financial donations."
Two paid staff members alternate nights at the shelter. Volunteers assist with overnight shifts. The operation has received the approval of Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna and the Appleton Police Department, which is located across the street from St. Joseph Church. The Fox Cities Housing Coalition has raised opposition, fearing that the facility will cut into funding for other shelters. Attorney Tom Janssen is serving as the legal representative for the Fox Valley Warming Shelter.
"Finding a new building is our main goal," said Stoegbauer. "Once we find a new location, we will begin 24-hour service."
"The shelter is a viable effort and there is a population out there that needs help," said Therese Janssen. "It's an effort in progress."
To make a financial donation in support of the shelter, make checks payable to Fox Valley Warming Shelter, P.O. Box 1261, Appleton, WI 54912-1261. For more information, contact Don Stoegbauer at (920) 788-6362 or e-mail: [email protected].