GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — The Safe Shelter will open its doors this fall, providing an emergency, temporary place to stay for up to 60 people at a time.
“It's a very cool thing to see finally come to fruition," said Sarah Williams, Assistant Executive Director for the Safe Shelter. "There's walls up, we have sinks, there's a kitchen.”
Pearl Webster, a member of the Oneida Nation and a volunteer at St. John's Homeless Shelter, started this project in 2014, seeing the growing homeless population and a need for a family shelter.
“While she was in her practice and dealing with families, the homeless population was kind of becoming concerning to her," said Williams. “The native community, it's a family feel," said Williams. "They take care of one another. And so that's essentially what we want this to feel like when people come here so during that season of their life when they're experiencing homelessness. We want them to know that they're loved needed and wanted somewhere.”
However, the Safe Shelter, located at 2155 Hutson Rd, will service anyone in the community who needs it. There are 14 rooms, all different sizes, that can fit families of six or eight as well as individual adults. NEW Community Outreach will provide healthcare to families, educators will come in to help adults earn their GEDs or build resumes and advocates will help people find stable housing in the community.
“Homelessness has a stigma that goes with it," said Mary Vannieuwenhoven, a volunteer with Lakeland University. "People have a vision in their mind of the types of people that are homeless and that's not really the case you know there are some very professional people, there's a whole variety of individuals that are homeless and don't have a safe place to stay.”
Homelessness can impact any of us at any time, said Vannieuwenhoven.
“Today, I've got a great job," she said. "Tomorrow, I might not, and COVID especially in the past year and a half has impacted a lot of people. Being able to give back to your neighbors, to help the people who are in need, knowing that any one of us could be in that same position at any time is really rewarding and we have a great community in Green Bay and Oneida that loves to help each other.”
The Safe Shelter estimates renovations will cost around $850,000, so Lakeland University is having a donation drive for money and the following items:
- Men/women personal toiletries
- Paper products, toilet paper, tissue boxes
- Bath towels, wash cloths
- Children/adult hats, mittens, gloves, scarves
- Pillows, single sheets, blankets
If you would like to help out and donate, you can drop items off at Lakeland (Monday-Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) or the Wise Women Gathering Place (Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Monetary donations can be sent to the following address (checks payable to Safe Shelter):
Attn: Pearl Webster
Safe Shelter - P.O. Box 501
Oneida, WI 54155