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Tommy lost his job and his apartment. His friends could only let him stay with them for a few days, and he had no relatives in the area. Gloria came to Racine with six children, trying to escape an abusive relationship. Fred, 71 and diagnosed with dementia, was brought to HALO one day after being evicted; we discovered that his caretaker took his money and didn’t pay his rent. Where would Tommy, Gloria, Fred and others go if HALO did not exist?
HALO opened in 2005 and currently has 120 beds, plus overflow capacity for mats on the dining room floors. This winter we have sheltered an average of 150 individuals per night; recently, on one very frigid, snowy night, we sheltered 165 individuals. These numbers are very high compared to last year for several reasons. In March 2017 HALO began accepting all people experiencing homelessness – including those with active addictions. Many of these individuals were previously unsheltered and on the street; as a result a number of temporary shelters had opened for them. We are proud that HALO now provides shelter to anyone experiencing homelessness in Racine. HALO also relaxed other policies to help those with addictions and severe mental illness access supportive services. Finally, there seems to be a regional increase in homelessness; shelters between Chicago and Green Bay have consistently been full since last summer.
HALO is intended to be a temporary, short term solution. Our goal is to quickly get individuals and families back into their own homes, ensuring they have the skills and resources to retain that housing and achieve stability. All clients meet with case managers who first provide them immediate support and then help link them with community resources such as GED, advanced education/degree programs, employment skills, help with social security disability applications, addiction counseling, mental health counseling, access to medications, classes in parenting skills, budgeting, and basic daily living skills. We quickly help parents make arrangements so their children’s education is not interrupted, arrange for necessary tutoring, and provide educational and recreational opportunities for children in shelter.
It is quite an undertaking to shelter, feed, and provide services to over 150 people each night, as well as to keep the shelter safe and sanitary. We have 18 full-time and 17 part-time staff. We rely heavily on the 2000 volunteers per year who provide support to our staff, make meals, spruce up the shelter, provide workshops, nursing care, Bible study, and so much more. In addition to shelter, HALO also has a housing program with 37 permanent supportive housing units and 6 rapid rehousing units; these are owned by private landlords and are scattered throughout the community. We provide case management to our clients living in these units.
It costs nearly $6000/day to operate the shelter and housing programs. While we receive government, foundation, United Way, and local corporation grants, the bulk of our funding comes from individual donations. Despite all this, we still anticipate a budget shortfall due to our increased numbers.
Today Tommy is working and will soon be moving into his own apartment. We learned Fred is a veteran so we were able to get him connected with services through the VA; he has moved into housing. Gloria continues to receive services that will help her and her children eventually move into housing. In the meantime, they are in a safe place with people who want the best for them. With the support of our Racine community, HALO will continue to provide our clients with the best path to home.
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In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/