Janesville73.6°

Residents report few troubles with local shelters

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Kayla Bunge
December 29, 2007
— People are afraid of what they don’t know, and for many people the homeless are scary.

“People see in the less fortunate their own frailty, and they’re frightened to come to grips with that,” said the Rev. William Myrick of Christ Episcopal Church in Delavan.


As a shelter for single, homeless men opens its doors in Rock County churches, neighbors are concerned. But they shouldn’t be worried, according to the organizers of similar programs in Beloit and Walworth County.


Myrick said there’s a perception that all homeless people are troublemakers—criminals, alcoholics or drug addicts—and that’s a perception his church and others are trying to change.


“You have to remember that these people are in the community anyway. It’s not like we’re bringing them to the community from someplace else,” he said. “If they are people who would in fact break the law, they would be doing it. It doesn’t originate with the shelter.”


Both Hands of Faith in Beloit and the Walworth County Emergency Homeless Shelter do background checks of potential shelter residents for the protection of shelter staff, volunteers and the community.


“We’re not looking for a clean slate, per se, just certain red flags,” said Jeff Hoyt, director of Hands of Faith.


Red flags include active warrants; serious, repeated infractions of the law, and registered sex offender status.


“We do want to know who we’re dealing with,” said Deb Weber, secretary for the Walworth County shelter.


Myrick said the majority of shelter residents aren’t homeless because of a criminal record. They’re homeless because they lost their job or because they choose to pay for medication instead of rent. Some are military veterans.


Hoyt said shelter residents often have no more than a high school education, which makes it difficult for them to obtain good paying jobs.


“They’re people just like me and you who have fallen on hard times and need people to support them until they can get back on their feet again,” said Sr. Judy Aubry of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Beloit.


Both Myrick and Hoyt said the shelters haven’t experienced any problems. The neighborhoods, they said, aren’t disrupted as the shelters rotate through the churches.


Organizers said shelter residents often police themselves and take good care of the shelter space.


“They want that place to stay,” Weber said. “They don’t want trouble, and they don’t want people there to cause trouble because they value having that place to stay.”


Even so, Myrick admitted there’s a perception trouble comes with a homeless shelter.


If people saw the shelters firsthand, Weber said, they’d better understand their place in the community.


“We keep trying to invite people in so they can see for themselves,” she said. “Once they come in and meet the guys, they say, ‘Oh, hey, they are regular people.’


“But you have to get them to come and see them, and that’s the hard part.”


ORGANIZERS SPEAK


Shelter organizers in Beloit and Walworth County say the following to people in Janesville as a shelter for homeless, single men opens there:


“I wouldn’t minimize their concerns. Everyone who is being thrust into a new situation has legitimate concerns, but I really would tell people to let things play out, see how things transpire instead of what they think will happen.”


—Jeff Hoyt, director, Hands of Faith, Beloit


“Go and be a neighbor ... Look in your heart. Look in the eyes of the person in need and see if that does not look like your brother or sister. Pray that it’s not your child but respond as if it were.”


—Rev. William Myrick, founder, Walworth County


Emergency Homeless Shelter


“I wish they would keep an open mind about it and realize that just because people are homeless, they’re not criminals. They’re just people that happen to be homeless. Being homeless doesn’t define them as people ... They really don’t have anything to fear.”


—Deb Weber, secretary, Walworth County Emergency


Homeless Shelter


SHELTER PROGRAMS


Hands of Faith


Telephone: (608) 363-0683


Established: 2002


Who it’s for: Families with at least one child


How the shelter works: Local churches rotate hosting duties on a weekly basis. The shelter has enough beds for 14 residents each night.


Hours: 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.


What the shelter provides: Dinner, breakfast and bag lunch. Shelter residents are taken from the host church to the Hands of Faith Day Center at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, their base from which to look for employment and housing.


Churches that host or assist the shelter:


—Atonement Lutheran Church, 901 Harrison Ave., Beloit


—Christ United Methodist Church, 1227 Liberty Ave., Beloit


—Community of Christ, 4242 S. Chippendale Drive, Beloit


—First Baptist Church, 617 Public Ave., Beloit


—First Presbyterian Church, 501 Prospect St., Beloit


—River of Life United Methodist Church, 511 Public Ave., Beloit


—Central Christian Church, 2460 Milwaukee Road, Beloit


—Jefferson Prairie Lutheran Church, 23184 Bergen Road, Poplar Grove, Ill.


—Luther Valley Church, 7107 S. Luther Valley, Beloit


—Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1531 Townline Ave., Beloit


—New Hope United Methodist Church, 2345 Prairie Ave., Beloit


—New Zion Baptist Church, 1905 Mound Ave., Beloit


—Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 2222 Shopiere Road, Beloit


—Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 749 Bluff St., Beloit


—Redeemer Evangelical Covenant Church, 2500 Prairie Ave., Beloit


—Rock Valley Chapel, 2780 Shopiere Road, Beloit


—St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1000 Bluff St., Beloit


—St. Jude Catholic Church, 822 Hackett St., Beloit


—St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 212 W. Grand Ave., Beloit


—St. Thomas Catholic Church, 822 E. Grand Ave., Beloit


—Temple B’nai Abraham, 2400 Oxford Lane, Beloit


—Wesley Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, 1760 Shore Drive, Beloit


Walworth County Emergency Homeless Shelter


Phone: (262) 903-WARM


Established: 2005


Who it’s for: Single men


How the shelter works: Area churches rotate hosting duties on a weekly basis. The shelter has enough beds for 20 residents each night.


Hours: 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.


What the shelter provides: Dinner, breakfast and bag lunch. Shelter residents have access to a telephone and mailbox to assist in obtaining employment.


Churches that host or assist the shelter:


—Chapel on the Hill, N2440 Ara Glen Drive, Lake Geneva


—Christ Episcopal Church, 503 E. Walworth Ave., Delavan


—Creek Road Community Church, W7778 Creek Road, Delavan


—Delavan First Baptist Church, 212 S. Main St., Delavan


—Delavan United Methodist Church, 213 S. Second St., Delavan


—United Church of Christ Congregational, 123 E. Washington, Delavan


—First Congregational United Church of Christ, 76 S. Wisconsin St., Elkhorn


—Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1229 Park Row, Lake Geneva


—Immanuel United Church of Christ, 111 Fremont, P.O. Box 209, Walworth


—Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 416 W. Geneva St., Delavan


—St. Andrew Catholic Church, 714 E. Walworth Ave., Delavan


—St. Benedict Catholic Church, 137 Dewey Ave., Fontana


—St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, 148 W. Main St., Lake Geneva


—St. John’s Lutheran Church, 104 S. Broad St., Elkhorn


—St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, 534 Sunset Drive, Elkhorn


—Sugar Creek Lutheran Church, N5690 Cobblestone Road, Elkhorn


—River of Life Christian Church, 403 E. Walworth Ave., Delavan


—Williams Bay Lutheran Church, 11 Collie St., Williams Bay



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