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The Hospitality Center is donating nearly $39,000 to the Continuum of Care’s hotel voucher program to help house homeless and transitioning individuals through the coming winter.

After Rev. Kevin Stewart announced last January that the Center would cease overnight emergency shelter because of a lack of resources, the greater Racine community and beyond responded in force, raising nearly $50,000 and countless donations of food, clothing and toiletries. The cash was earmarked, Stewart said, in a restricted account meant only for shelter needs.

When Stewart learned last week that the Continuum of Care’s hotel voucher program ran out of money, he reached out to CoC President Gai Lorenzen about using the remainder of those restricted funds to replenish the hotel vouchers.

“The voucher program’s financial resources were exhausted before the first frost and people were out on the streets,” he said. “I can’t think of a better way to use this money.”

Of the almost $50,000 donated, there is $38,879.17 leftover after paying for a number of hotel vouchers and other shelter needs.

“We are grateful and extremely happy for this generous gift,” Lorenzen said in a phone interview Wednesday. “This is just a really wonderful and unexpected gift.”

Stewart said he doesn’t see any other way to use the money since a long-term shelter solution has yet to surface, and the Hospitality Center remains ill-equipped to provide emergency shelter services as it has for the last four years.

“The community response allowed the Hospitality Center overnight shelter to remain open last winter and allows the Continuum of Care to continue to open doors of safety and shelter for our sisters and brothers in need now,” he said. “Ideally the money was going to be used as seed money for a long-term shelter solution, but there is a need now, and it is urgent. We cannot risk anyone freezing this winter.”

Lorenzen said the money should last the season, but without knowing how great the demand will be or whether or not community agencies will be able to move people smoothly into more permanent housing, there is always the risk of running short.

“The problem is we don’t have any hard numbers so it’s hard to predict,” she explained. “If we continue at the current rate, then we’re in good shape, but if demand goes up or we can’t find housing, then we could be in trouble.”

Hospitality Center participants will still have the drop-in day program and the hot meal program, Stewart confirmed.

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