Hebron House Closes Homeless Men’s Emergency Winter Shelter

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that after going in the hole to operate a homeless men’s emergency winter shelter in a former Waukesha school last winter, Hebron House of Hospitality won’t reopen the center until – and unless – it has nearly $70,000 for the program in hand.

Bernie Juno, executive director of Hebron House, said the agency raised $45,000 last year for the emergency shelter, “but it cost us $65,000 to run.”

The combination of that deficit, plus cuts in state and federal funds totaling nearly $100,000, has “put us in a really bad place,” Juno said.

A second transitional Waukesha shelter operated by Hebron House for families and single women – Siena House, which Juno said averages about 28 residents at a time – has been closed since mid-July for repairs and remodeling by volunteers. But once the improvements were finished, it wasn’t reopened and won’t until operating funds are available, Juno said.

In addition, a small homeless shelter with room for about a dozen people in West Bend has been closed because Hebron House didn’t have the additional $35,000 needed to upgrade the home, Juno said. A housing hotline service has been turned over to another agency there.

With operating cash in the agency’s bank account depleted, Hebron House of Hospitality is launching a holiday fundraising campaign in hopes of still getting the shelters open before the winter freeze arrives. The effort will coincide with The Salvation Army of Waukesha’s annual campaign to raise about $640,000.

In 2008 and 2009, when the economic downturn raised the numbers of people in need of basic services and filled existing shelters beyond capacity, an overflow shelter was set up over the winter months in the basement of St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Waukesha, largely with the use of volunteers and donated supplies.

The emergency shelter was moved last year to a former school building on Northview Road and Grandview Blvd. after Hebron House submitted an offer to purchase the building and leased space in it until cash for the purchase could be raised. That offer has expired, Juno said, but the bank owner is still working with her on a plan to co-locate several agencies in the building.

The building once was the public Northview School and, more recently, the private West Suburban Christian Academy. The gymnasium was used for housing up to 35 men overnight last year. It opened between Nov. 15 and the end of November.

“If anything, we’re looking for a Dec. 15 opening – if we can raise the money,” Juno said. “If we can’t raise the money, it won’t be back.”

Father David Simmons, a member of the Hebron House board of directors, said, “Because of the network and services that the Waukesha community provides to help the homeless population, many residents are unaware there is such a need. However, if these services continue to be cut and donations are not coming in, people will see homelessness in the community.”

More than 2,000 people in Waukesha County who were either in a housing crisis or needed supplemental Social Security benefits were served by Hebron House of Hospitality, the agency said. It works with the residents on increasing income, saving money, finding permanent housing and goals to stabilize their lives, said Cathy Malkani, Hebron’s development director.

Hebron opened a new, larger family shelter on East Ave. this year that replaced an older house. Its expanded capacity, from 24 in the old place to 40 in the new one, has picked up some of the slack created with the Siena House closing.

The Salvation Army of Waukesha also operates an emergency shelter near the downtown area for homeless men with 30 cots and another 11 couches and extra mattresses for overflow. In announcing its holiday campaign this week, The Salvation Army’s Maj. Carol Lemirand said the agency had also lost about $100,000 in grants for programs this year.

If Hebron House isn’t able to reopen its overnight shelter, the Salvation Army’s will be the only emergency shelter for men operating this winter.

Juno said the combination of cuts at the federal level, reductions at the state level, and the economic downturn that has resulted in greater need and harder-to-come-by private donations has created “a perfect storm for a lot of nonprofits.”

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