Rumblings | A New Home

an organized push for a comprehensive homeless shelter in Eau Claire

Kinzy Janssen

At least eight separate organizations – from churches to social service centers – are pooling ambitions (before the snow flies) to turn an existing facility in Eau Claire into a comprehensive homeless shelter with beds and case management. At a preliminary meeting last year, the homeless themselves put forth input. “They want a warm place with a bathroom,” says Sue Howe, program supervisor for Positive Avenues in Eau Claire, a drop-in mental health center. She lists off past efforts for overnight shelters that, though well-meant, essentially flopped. Last year, Valleybrook Church opened their garage as a shelter, but visitors who fell asleep were breaking the law because the church wasn’t zoned as a hotel. Rezoning would have required lots of additions, including a sprinkler system. Likewise, B Side Community, a fresh-faced ministry in Eau Claire, incurred penalties for housing people because they didn’t have proper permits. “And if they’re drunk and cold, they can’t come in,” says Howe, who sees daily need for all-inclusive services. Rules, however, are yet to be affixed. “That will vary, depending on who’s ultimately going to administer those services,” she says. And before they secure a building, they’ll need to obtain grant money. Howe says the best way to get involved is to attend upcoming meetings, the next of which is Sept. 9 at 2pm at the Wellness Shack.

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