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The Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization  (HALO) was created over 10 years ago to prevent chronic homelessness in Racine County by meeting shelter needs, coordinating supportive services and providing community leadership.

In March of this year, the Continuum of Care released data showing that during this past winter, over half of both the male beds, and the family beds available at HALO sat empty. During this same period the Hospitality Center was overwhelmed by over 110 men, women, and children seeking shelter, averaging 25-35 guests each night. Many of these individuals had been refused access to HALO.

On March 31, the Hospitality Center closed their overnight shelter due to an inadequate facility, organizational capacity, and the growing numbers of persons in need seeking shelter. Many are again on the streets and in need of permanent shelter. Several are now being housed temporarily using short-term motel vouchers. On April 17, the Continuum of Care met to address this serious dilemma, and unanimously took the following position: The Continuum of Care will pursue the creation of an additional resource to meet the shelter needs of persons experiencing homelessness in Racine County. At that same meeting, HALO’s director stated their services would not be enhanced to meet this service gap.

Before the Continuum of Care proceeds to the next step of strategically planning for a new shelter, we should pause and reflect.

Does Racine need to create a new shelter when one already exists? HALO’s Mission Statement states that they will meet shelter needs, yet they continually turn away the most vulnerable.

Should HALO have to revisit their position and meet shelter needs for all who arrive in need at their doorstep? They are best equipped to deal with overnight shelter issues, just as the Hospitality Center is best positioned to administer Racine’s largest meal program and offer radical hospitality.

Finally, how can these two service providers best work cooperatively to ensure that shelter and hospitality are available to all?

Leif Peterson, Elmwood Park

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.