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Three are better than one! Agencies merge to better serve the homeless

Fox Valley Warming Shelter, Homeless Connections and Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities announced today the name of their new merged organization — Pillars. The new organization will better serve the needs of those who are homeless in the Fox Valley, by uniting key organizations at three levels of housing and increasing the effectiveness of the work through ease of coordination and support. The plan to merge was announced in May.

Pillars executive director Joe Mauthe unveils Pillars name change

“As our community grows, it is inevitable that the need for shelter, support, and solutions will grow. Pillars is positioned to stand tall and continue to address the housing needs of our community,” said Joe Mauthe, executive director of Pillars, who previously served as executive director of the Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities.

The new organization’s administrative office will be at 605 E. Hancock St. The existing facilities, including both homeless shelters, will continue to operate normally, along with all existing programs.

The announcement comes one week after Homeless Connections opened a new Day Resource Center at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church near downtown Appleton.

Current programs continue at multiple sites, but under a common set of operational policies and management.

The merger has been in the works since 2016, under the working title, “Project Tetris Strategic Partnership.” The Foundation awarded a grant of $9,600 from the Bright Idea Fund to help with the facilitation of the merger’s planning and execution. In addition to the Foundation, U.S. Venture, Thrivent, J. J. Keller Foundation, United Way and Bemis Foundation also supported the co-investment.

More on the merged organizations

The Fox Valley Warming Shelter, Homeless Connections and Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities employ 46 people and serve a combined 2,400 people with programs that include prevention, street outreach and homeless shelter services, as well as transitional and affordable housing. They have a combined revenue of $3.6 million.

In 2015 the three participated in a Fox Cities Housing Coalition study, known as Project RUSH. That study, which provided a comprehensive picture of the challenges of homelessness in the region, inspired the partners to critically examine opportunities to align their efforts in order to improve services and client outcomes.

What will change?

Only the names. Fox Valley Warming Shelter will now be called Pillars Adult Shelter. It was founded in 2008 to respond to the needs of an under-served population. The organization does not deny services on the basis of criminal history or substance use status, filling a niche. FVWS “welcomes all homeless adult men and women into [its] facility. Once inside, they are provided with life’s basic needs – shelter, food, clothing and safety – along with referrals to local resources to help them achieve self-sufficiency.”

Homeless Connections is now called Pillars Adult & Family Shelter. It operates a mixture of prevention, outreach, shelter, and case-management services to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It operates a 78-bed shelter facility. It has a significant volunteer pool that contributes over 18,000 hours annually.

Homeless Connections Day Resource Center is now called Pillars Resource Center. It opened last week, and serves as an extension of the street outreach program for homeless connections so people who aren’t currently connected to case management services or some of the supporting services will engage with our staff.

Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities is now Pillars Housing Solutions. It provides affordable homes, intensive case management, and comprehensive life skills training to families desiring to transition from homelessness to stable housing, and delivers prevention services and stable long-term housing for low-income people.

“The specifics are going to be determined gradually as we start working together,” said Scott Peeples, executive director of the Fox Valley Warming Shelter.

Peeples and Jerome Martin, executive director of Homeless Connections, will be part of the new organization’s leadership team.

“We’ll leverage the strengths of three organizations to build an agency that better supports and serves our clients in a way that enhances their ability to succeed,” Martin said.

Poverty rates in Wisconsin are slightly lower than the U.S. average, and rates in the Fox Cities are even lower, according to the United Way Fox Cities LIFE Study, which measures demographic, economic, social and health issues in the Fox Cities.

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