Home » News » Green Bay council approves request to expand homeless shelter capacity

Green Bay council approves request to expand homeless shelter capacity

St. John's Ministries, Homeless, Green Bay
Men wait to enter St. John’s men’s shelter on St. John’s Street on Tuesday evening, Dec. 6. Daniel Kramer photo

By Kris Leonhardt

Acting Editor

GREEN BAY – At their Dec. 6 meeting, the Green Bay Common Council passed a motion to approve a conditional use permit request from St. John’s Ministries that would allow the homeless shelter located in the former St. John’s School to significantly increase its capacity.

The request was initially approved during a Nov. 28 Green Bay Plan Commission meeting.

City of Green Bay Neighborhood Development Specialist Will Peters, who said that he tries to keep his “finger on the pulse of what is happening and occurring right now amongst the service-provider community and what is being done to address homelessness,” spoke to the need in the city.

“So, I know this is a very large nebulous problem, in what happens with one area such as currently serving the homeless in our local shelters, to the will impact what’s happening out on the street with our currently unsheltered population. So to discuss need right now in Brown County, our unsheltered homeless population is up 235% from where we were last year. Currently, New Community Shelter last I checked, their max capacity is like 93 beds, 95 and they’re at 90, which is a number that they haven’t seen in years,” he said.

“I think last year at this time they were at like 53 out of those 90, so there is a need right now in space, in capacity. And I want to recognize the tremendous work of our shelters, St. John’s, and New shelter, NEWCAP safe shelter. I mean, the list goes on. I really want to recognize and validate the work that they’re doing, because they’re doing tremendous work in our community.”

In addressing the number of individuals occupying St. John’s Park, he said it often includes those not eligible for shelter residency.

“The population currently that are unsheltered on the street that are frequenting St. John’s Park are individuals with reoccurring needs. So we’re talking severe mental health, AODA, physical health, physical limitations, because some of the criteria to be eligible in a shelter is that you have to be able to provide self-care. And if you cannot provide self-care, whether that is because you are not in the right mind or you physically just can’t, you’re not eligible. Our shelters are not set up to be assisted care facilities.”

Nicholas Giannetto, 51, waits to enter the St. John’s men’s shelter on St. John’s Street on Dec. 6. “St. John’s is a godsend,” he said. “If it weren’t for this place, there would be a lot of people dying in the streets.” Daniel Kramer photo

The plan commission unanimously approved the request, adding one requirement for St. John’s to meet annually with the Downtown Neighborhood Association, in addition to seven existing requirements that included background checks for shelter residents.

During the Dec. 6 city meeting, council members discussed the matter for about an hour.

St. John’s Associate Executive Director Rob Frazier said that the move from an 84-bed to a 140-bed facility wasn’t so much a reflection of the need, but more of the available capacity.

“That is not anywhere close to the numbers that we have. Okay. The reason that we are approaching the 140-mark is now we have the construction, the improvements, all the things that we poured many, many dollars into the building. We now have the ability to serve that many guests. We at no time have approached that 140,” he explained. “Even in the height of COVID or anything else where conditions were rough. So, I just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page.

“This is not to say that we’re doing this because of the fact that we have this many more needs. So with the fact that we now have the women’s shelter, we’ve just added 55 beds strictly for women and their mental health and all the things that are associated with that, which eliminates the need and the pressures that we associated with at St. John’s.

“So, we’re not at a capacity issue. We’ve never been in a capacity issue. And, you know, even if there was one more homeless person, we would still invite them in.”

Regarding the population in St. John’s Park, Frazier said that many choose not to use the shelter for various reasons.

“They don’t want to follow rules. They don’t want to conform to the policies that we have. And so they choose not to, and I know of one specific individual that is severely mentally handicapped. And that person stayed with us all summer long safely. And when we asked her to move to the women’s shelter that just, you know, it was beyond her comprehension that we would ask her to move. I can’t explain it,” he stated.

Council members ultimately agreed to amend the approval to introduce a condition requiring St. John’s to provide a report to the Green Bay Protection & Policy Committee annually, before June 30.

The amended request was unanimously approved with one council member abstaining.

“And, you know, even if there was one more homeless person, we would still invite them in.” – St. John’s Associate Executive Director Rob Frazier

Facebook Comments
Scroll to Top