By Maddie Martin
GREEN BAY – A shortage of available staff has recently affected the 2023-24 shelter season at St. John’s Ministries, as they are currently only able to open one, co-ed shelter.
During the cold, winter months each year, St. John’s Ministries opens a homeless shelter which provides a place for those experiencing homelessness to get off the street.
The shelters typically act as a warm, safe place for people to sleep and get a meal.
“[We want to make sure people] are taken care of and feeling good about themselves again, so they can move forward in life,” said Steven Schauer, director of community engagement at St. John’s Ministries. “Once they are in the shelter, they are put in contact with our case managers to figure out what are the barriers and challenges they are facing, and what can we do to overcome those.
“The ultimate goal is self-sufficiency and taking care of yourself again. But along the way that might mean employment, sobriety, or a number of other things to take care of.”
For many years, St. John’s Ministries offered one, co-ed shelter open to both men and women.
During last year’s shelter season, though, they were able to open a women-only shelter.
This year, St. John’s Ministries will unfortunately only be able to open one, co-ed shelter due to staffing shortages and difficulty filling shifts.
Along with the staffing shortages, there is also an increase in the number of people utilizing the shelter’s services from last season.
On opening day of the 2022-23 season, the shelter saw 51 adults through their doors.
This year, though, the shelter saw an increase to 77 adults.
This increase can be expected to continue through the rest of the winter season.
“A lot of the women that we shelter have unfortunately faced significant trauma, abuse, trafficking, addiction or a number of things in their life that make them feel more comfortable and communicate better if it’s female-to-female,” said Schauer, speaking to the importance of having a women’s shelter available in the community.
“[In the co-ed shelter] they still receive the same service, but with everybody in one building, for some women it’s a different experience,” said Schauer, “As an organization and staff, we are doing everything we can to accommodate these women.”
The St. John’s Ministries staff hopes to open a women’s shelter this season as soon as they have the staff.
In the meantime, this year’s shelter offers a different sleeping space for women in a different part of the building.
Additionally, women seeking shelter are able to communicate with other women on staff.
“The challenges are there, but this isn’t something new to us. We’ve done this in the past as an organization,” explained Schauer. “We are actively recruiting staff to fill shifts… We want to open that women’s shelter as soon as we possibly can. As soon as we have the staff that we feel can provide those resources and that safety to the women that show up. We can’t do that until we have that staff.”
Along with providing shelter services, St. John’s Ministries hopes to combat the stigma surrounding homelessness.
“This is a year round issue, it doesn’t just happen in the winter. It’s people you know: your neighbors and friends. A lot of people are living on the fringe, living check-to-check,” Schauer added.
“[We want people to] be aware of what’s happening around the community and lend a hand to their neighbors. Pick up their groceries or mow their lawn, just to help out.
“There’s a lot of stories out there about why people are homeless, but the bottom line is, each person that shows up to our shelters is somebody to someone. We need to respect their dignity and help them restore some hope, so they can make the change and move forward.”
For information, visit stjohnsgreenbay.org.
Pass It Forward™ editorial is sponsored by Packers Give Back and Nicolet Bank.