The community has long known St. John’s as Green Bay’s largest emergency homeless shelter, serving adult men and women who would otherwise be on the streets. During the winter season, or November through April, the shelter opens its doors at 5 pm. The summer season, regarded by St. John’s as May through October, is when the shelter operates its Summer Safe Sleep program from 9 pm to 6 am.
But some of the organization’s most critical work happens during business hours at their daytime resource centers, The Micah Center and Wellspring.
“Our scope of services has evolved tremendously, especially in the last seven years,” said Alexia Wood, Executive Director of St. John’s Homeless Shelter. “We started as an organization of two people running an overnight shelter with mats on a gym floor, and now we employ more than 40 across three locations.”
The Micah Center, originally housed at 700 E. Walnut St. when acquired in 2014, now operates out of the recently purchased 612 Stuart St. location. Wellspring, on 413 Dousman St., empowers and provides a safe place to women experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. Between the two locations, St. John’s offers wraparound services, including on-site case management, mental health counseling, medical care, computer labs and, most importantly, forward-moving programming.
“Programming and case management are our bread and butter,” said Wood. “The shelter provides those basic needs—a bed, a hot meal and a place to shower. But at our daytime centers, we offer programs and the guidance of case managers to help guests set personal goals and move forward. These are spaces of huge growth and transformation for our guests.”
The Micah Center and Wellspring offer a wide array of options for guests to achieve the goals they set for the immediate and long term. Workshops and classes comprise the bulk of the programming calendar. Some address the barriers that may prevent someone from moving towards self-sufficiency: employment and housing applications, securing a government ID, or building a resume. Other workshops are focused specifically on mental, spiritual, and financial health, such as Mindfulness for Depression & Anxiety, Relationship Goals, Jesus & Donuts, No More Excuses and Empower Yourself.
“We need to offer classes that are relevant to the guest(s) that we serve,” Eugene Smalls, Case Manager, said. “Something that adults can relate to is extremely important and not the usual mundane group talks that you can get anywhere else. I feel like if we don’t challenge people to move forward instead of continuing to live their current lifestyle and just surviving, then we aren’t forward moving.”
Both locations are open to shelter guests as well as other community members at-risk of homelessness, and the atmosphere at Wellspring takes that community feeling to heart. The services there are tailored specifically to women, especially those who have experienced trauma or abuse. It’s not uncommon to see women who are homeless, women at-risk of being homeless and women who simply need a safe space all interacting over a cup of coffee or working together during a Bible study reflections hour.
“When we are developing the programs at Wellspring, we are looking to serve our guests with programs that are helping them sustain or find housing, maintain their finances, build healthy relationships and empower themselves through adversity,” Tameika Hughes-Foote, Case Manager, said. “Our programs also cater to our population, so we do some programs that are specifically for empowering women and diversity.”
These daytime services are essential to the wellbeing and forward movement of St. John’s guests.
“Using the services at Wellspring has me looking at things differently and setting better goals,” said Kathy, a guest of St. John’s and Wellspring. “If I didn’t have Wellspring, I’d likely be sitting on a park bench crying and not knowing what to do next. Having the support of a case manager and positive relationships with other females is important to me. I am thinking differently and bettering my life skills.”
The programming at both locations has gone above and beyond this summer to consider the interests of the guests, so they are better able to tap into the inherent worth God gave them. Guests this summer been involved in and asked for classes geared towards their interests—music, art and fishing to name a few—and case managers and staff have taken those requests into account.
“Our work is more than helping a guest fill out a housing application or get a job,” Wood said. “Yes, those tasks are important, but the heart of our mission is to help each guest realize their own dignity and worth, to unlock their potential. Robust and intentional programming is a huge part of that. A few weeks ago, we offered guests the opportunity to participate in a cookoff. You should have seen the way these guys lit up from the inside as they showed us what they had prepared.”
St. John’s is, at its core, a place where an individual will receive the dignity they deserve, be instilled with hope for the future and work towards lasting change to put them back on a path towards self-sufficiency. That path starts with the wraparound services at the Micah Center and Wellspring.