After residents complained at a meeting held at the Racine County Courthouse Thursday about the location of an emergency homeless shelter on Martin Luther King Drive, Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave offered to help the group find a new location.
But with cooler weather on the horizon, a short-term solution to reconstitute the REST program — an emergency shelter program that rotated between several area churches — is on the table.
Segue Racine, a group of residents led by local clergy and others, announced in May that they bought a building located at 961 Martin Luther King Dr. They had planned to rehabilitate the former bar into an overnight emergency shelter. But a number of people attending the meeting raised concerns over the location being so close to a school.
The facility, which was expected to open this summer, was expected to serve five to 30 people. With plans to find a different location on the table, this presents a short-term and long-term problem for those who are homeless and aren’t able to use the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization (HALO).
Pastor Holly Anderle, a member of Segue Racine, said the group is committed to finding a place where people who are experiencing temporary homelessness can go.
“We are actively engaged in ongoing discussions with the Racine community to address ideas and concerns,” Anderle said. “We know that everyone involved truly seeks to find a common solution that will allow the most vulnerable among us to be safe. But we are also acutely aware that the clock is ticking. We MUST find a solution so that those without shelter can find refuge from the elements before the cold weather is upon us once again.”
M.T. Boyle, chief of staff for Racine County, said the county plans to work with the Register of Deeds to identify foreclosed properties that could be used for an emergency shelter that aren’t near schools.
“The folks from Segue mentioned that this was a donation, and that they had jumped the gun… and one of the residents there mentioned that they had never vetted the location with them,” she said.
Mayor John Dickert said one point he wanted to make clear was that the facility would not be open to sex offenders. But it would offer mental health and AODA assessments to participants. Still, he would like to see members of Segue and RUSD continue meeting to see if a solution could be worked out to keep the building.
“It’s our job to solve this problem, not just push it on to someone else,” Dickert said.
But with only a few more months until cooler weather, the group talked about bringing back the REST program until a long-term solution could be found.
“We’re going to have another open meeting in August,” Boyle said. “We want to keep this open and transparent so the public can participate.”