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What will happen to Fond du Lac's homeless population? As one shelter closes, another opens

New Fond du Lac warming shelter under construction
Posted at 8:34 AM, Sep 28, 2023

FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — The Fond du Lac Salvation Army will no longer host its annual warming shelter this year,

That leaves the question: Where will the county’s homeless population go? One local church is stepping up.

Holy Family Parish, which includes six churches in the area and about 5,500 families, will now run the warming shelter on First Street in Fond du Lac.

The Salvation Army hosted the shelter for seven years, but staffing issues and an old building caused them to reconsider.

“It was a tough decision, because we do have such a heart and passion for serving this population,” said Crystal Champeau, the Fond du Lac Salvation Army Social Services Manager.

The Salvation Army then reached out to Fond du Lac United Way during the summer, which organized a meeting of local nonprofits facilitated by UW-Extension Fond du Lac.

“We're a community that steps up,” said Amber Kilawee, executive director for Fond du Lac United Way. “We're philanthropic. We want to roll our sleeves up. We want to volunteer. We want to be able to help out. And we want to be able to do it together to really solve for tough community issues.”

Holy Family Church emerged as the new host of the shelter, and bought a building near downtown to renovate to fit the shelter’s needs.

“We are just so glad that we can play a part in it, and that our community has rallied around it in such a way,” said Sarah Razner, the director of marketing and communications for Holy Family.

Fond du Lac County has a poverty rate of 9.8% — lower than the state average of 13%. It’s also lower than nearby Winnebago County (12.3%) and Brown County (11.5%), and higher than Calumet County (6.4%) and Outagamie County (8.7%).

But, local leaders say what makes Fond du Lac unique is its community resources for people in need.

“I think Fond du Lac County has always been fortunate to be a resource community, thanks to again, the donors, the stakeholders, the volunteers,” Kilawee said.

The shelter will be open November through April, and will feature 30 beds for guests. Holy Family is still looking for donations to continue to renovate the new shelter space.