People dealing with homelessness and advocates offering them help will have their own home base with the expected opening in March of a Day Resource Center in the former St. Matthew Lutheran school building at 129 S. Mason St. in Appleton.
“We want to make it the hub for all things homeless and housing support,” said Jerome Martin, executive director of Homeless Connections in downtown Appleton.
A $266,000 grant over three years from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership will help to create and staff the center, in partnership with Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities, the Fox Valley Warming Shelter and St. Matthew’s. The Basic Needs Giving Partnership is funded by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs within the Community Foundation with the proceeds from the annual U.S. Venture Open golf outing, and additional money from the J. J. Keller Foundation and other community partners.
While other nonprofits won’t have staff based there permanently, Homeless Connections is working with partners to provide financial counseling, mental health services, educational opportunities and job skills training.
The vision of a hub for services for the homeless was born out of a widespread survey of people dealing with homelessness called Project RUSH (Research to Understand and Solve Homelessness), which found that many people experiencing homelessness or near homelessness may not be receiving all of the assistance available to them. The cause, to some extent, is them not knowing where to access those services. The Day Resource Center would be that place.
The location offers good access from downtown Appleton, where many other services are provided and the Warming Shelter on W. College Avenue.
The effort will be led by a Day Resource Center program manager, a new position for Homeless Connections. The center also brings the addition of a 20-hour-per-week recovery coach for clients trying to overcome drug addiction and a 20-hour mental health peer counselor.
Another, innovative position is called the housing navigator. That person will work with those in need of housing – helping them through the requirements of security deposits, housing subsidies and various barriers – but also connect with landlords and property owners.
“It’s hard to find landlords willing to rent (to this group),” Martin said. “It will be one person they can get to know and who will connect the dots.”
This approach has been tried successfully other places.
“It’s intended to increase the state of stability,” Martin said.