2000 – 2005
An emergency shelter subcommittee of the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition worked consistently to create an emergency shelter option for those who, for various reasons, did not qualify to stay at the other homeless shelters in the Green Bay area. However, the efforts of the subcommittee were thwarted over and over again by two factors: a lack of funding, and the lack of a site for such a shelter.
ST. JOHN’S LOCATION ACQUIRED
A casual conversation at the Blackstone restaurant between members of StreetLights Outreach and Fr. Guy Blair, the new pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, solved one of the issues. Fr. Blair offered the gymnasium of the former St. John the Evangelist School for a temporary homeless shelter.
2005 – 2006
Funding Help from The Next Step
The Next Step, a non-profit organization headed by Karina and Lou O’Malley, provided the other answer in terms of funding. With a substantial donation, the O’Malley’s provided funding for facility and staff costs for one year. The Next Step served as the lead organization for COTS (Churches Offering Temporary Shelter) which was developed to oversee the day to day operations of the shelter for the 2005-2006 season. Karina O’Malley served as the chairperson of the COTS Advisory Committee. It was decided that the shelter would open on November 19, 2005 and offer shelter until April 1.
EMERGENCY SHELTER MOVES FORWARD
On November 2, 2007, Deacon Reilly delivered a letter from Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Green Bay, to Green Bay City Mayor Schmitt. The letter indicated that the Catholic Church was exercising its first amendment right to give shelter to the homeless and would open St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter at the St. John site during the following week.
ST. JOHN’S BECOMES AN OFFICIAL CORPORATION
On April 23, 2008, the St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter became a corporation of its own, while remaining a Catholic-affialted corporation in relationship to the Diocese of Green Bay.
With a deteriorating building, the shelter Board of Trustees decided to embark on a capital campaign to secure funds for shelter improvements. With a generous donation by an individual, and other donations by community members, the necessary funding was secured to renovate the shelter for the 2009-2010 season. A CUP (Conditional Use Permit) was again granted to the shelter in June, 2009. The dedication of the newly renovated St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter was held on October 28, 2009.
OVERFLOW SITE CREATED FOR WOMEN
In June, 2010, a three-year CUP was granted by the City of Green Bay to the shelter. In the new Operational Plan that accompanied the CUP, First United Methodist Church was listed as an overflow site for women. Reverends Paul and Sarah Johnson offered the church site when the numbers exceeded what was allowed for in the new CUP.
FR. GUY BLAIR HONORED
In September, 2010, Fr. Guy Blair left St. John the Evangelist Parish for a new ministry assignment in South Dakota. The shelter honored the contributions of one of its founders by naming the shelter gymnasium “The Blair Family Shelter.”
NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
In June, 2012, Mary Kelly retired as the Executive Director of the shelter. Alexia Wood was hired on June 4, 2012, to become the next shelter Executive Director. Additional shower stalls and toilets were added in the summer to meet the needs of the expanding guest population.
SHELTER CAPACITY SET
In August, 2012, a three-year CUP and accompanying updated Operational Plan was approved by the Green Bay City Council. The Operational Plan called for an overflow space at the shelter of 20 spaces, bringing the shelter capacity to 84. Two classrooms on the school corridor were designated as overflow space for these additional guests. In November of that year Mayor Schmitt called into question the 84 capacity. He instructed the Welfare and Protection Committee to form a task force to study homelessness in the downtown area. This task force formally became known as HOPE and began deliberations in January, 2013. Executive Director Alexia Wood represented St. John’s Shelter on the HOPE task force which looked to address the need for a daytime solution.
CITY BEGINS LOOKING INTO HOMELESSNESS
St. John’s began offering Rapid Rehousing. City officials again objected to the ministry of St. John’s. City-wide discussion and tension rose over number of homeless, barriers, daytime needs, etc.
St. Norbert College and St. Willebrord’s Parish offered additional overflow locations. The Sobriety Programming room opened in February for on-site drug and alcohol treatment began. The City of Green Bay permitted St. John’s to increase to 84 guests per night (with overflow when needed). The HOPE taskforce began. In November the Employment Programming (now called Stability Room) room opened.
THE MICAH CENTER OPENS
The Micah Center opened in downtown Green Bay at 700 E. Walnut St. The Basic Needs (Detox) Coalition formed. St. John’s added on-site medical services with full doctor’s office and staff. Advancements were made with Volgistics, a volunteer tracking software, which was introduced to support the growing volunteer pool.
MENTAL HEALTH ADDRESSED, RESTORING HOPE GALA FORMED
St. John’s took steps to address mental health by offering on-site mental health therapy through a partnership with Foundations. In November a Women’s programming room opened and the Inaugural Restoring Hope Gala was created to celebrate accomplishments and raise funds.
The increase need to assist the homeless led to the staff growing to four full-time year-round case managers, as opposed to two seasonal, part-time positions. The leadership responsibilities and positions were restructured to streamline services.
STAFF, COMMUNITY SUPPORT GROWS
The case managers began specializing their services based on their professional background. The Micah Center expanded services to open on the weekends. A donor content management software was implemented to improve donor data and fundraising efforts. St. John’s sponsored a legislators’ luncheon, where 30 state legislators and staff shared lunch with homeless guests in the gym of shelter to discuss gaps in services, needs, and continuum of care.
CITY SUPPORT, WELLSPRING ACQUIRED
The launch of the Joseph Project, an employment readiness program, in partnership with Senator Ron Johnson occurred. St. John’s began offering COTS/Summer Safe Sleep, which expanded shelter services to 365 days per year. The creation of four full-time staff positions were approved to assist with front-line services. The addition of a Director of Business and Director of Community Engagement were added to increase internal capacity. St. John’s went back to the City Council for an amended CUP (both for COTS and Shelter), which received a supportive response. St. John’s acquired Wellspring, a women’s-only daytime resource center, from Lutheran Social Service. A five-year strategic plan was created.
GUEST SERVICES IMPROVE
A Street Outreach Case Manager was added to connect with individuals on the stress and guide them to shelter and services. Funding was secured to purchase beds for each guest in shelter and the kitchen was renovated to upgrade facilities. St. John’s continued to meet the need by adding a Mental Health Nurse Prescriber on-site.
July 1, 2019
ST. JOHN’S BECOMES INDEPENDENT NON-PROFIT
After more than 2 years of careful planning, St. John’s makes the transition to an independent non-profit, no longer operating as a corporation of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay. Today, St. John’s operates as an ecumenical, faith-based ministry with a strong Christian foundation.
COVID ALTERS SHELTERING OF GUESTS
The COVID-19 pandemic struck NE Wisconsin in March 2020 and significantly altered the way St. John’s sheltered homeless men and women in the community. The remaining three months of the 19-20 shelter season saw guests split into two separate shelters to accommodate the social distancing guidelines. Spring Lake Church graciously provided 50 of our male guests over a month of free shelter at their downtown campus.
LEASE SIGNED WITH BASE PROPERTIES FOR SECOND TEMPORARY SHELTER
In October of 2020, just before the 20-21 shelter season beginning November 1, St. John’s entered into an 8-month lease agreement with Base Properties for the entire second floor of the Bay Lake City Center in downtown Green Bay. The second floor became the St. John’s men’s shelter, and the original shelter at 411 St. John Street became restricted to women only. This allowed St. John’s to continue to practice social distancing. St. John’s never enacted a capacity, while other shelters in town were forced to because of space constraints.
ENGAGE PARK PROGRAM LAUNCHED
Throughout the spring of 2021, St. John’s collaborated with the City of Green Bay and GBPD to develop a groundbreaking initiative to engage the unserved homeless population at St. John’s Park. It was launched in May of 2021 and featured a St. John’s case manager or staff member onsite throughout the week, providing critical programming and workshops. Other individuals and organizations graciously lent their time during evening & weekend hours, providing events such as movie and worship nights.
MICAH CENTER MOVES TO STUART ST. LOCATION
St. John’s purchased the 612 Stuart Street location, formerly the Arketype marketing company, and before that, Grace Presbyterian Church. This was a massive increase in square footage from the old Micah Center, allowing St. John’s to serve our guests in a much more professional, forward-moving atmosphere and increase the scope of our available programming.
SHELTERED GUESTS HIGHEST IN ST. JOHN’S HISTORY
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated Green Bay’s pre-existing issues, including cost-burdened households and a prevalent mental health crisis, and contributed to an overall increase in sheltered guests. With a building capacity of 84, St. John’s was consistently sheltering 110-130 guests per night in the months of January and February 2022.
REBRANDED TO ST. JOHN’S MINISTRIES
St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter officially rebrands to St. John’s Ministries, which includes a new logo and color scheme. This is a name that refers to our organization as a whole — St. John’s Ministries.
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