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The emergency shelter services at the Hospitality Center issue might have a solution in the near future now that a group of concerned citizens has joined forces.

When Rev. Kevin Stewart announced Monday that overnight shelter services were ending this weekend at the Hospitality Center, he hoped it might be more of a suspension than a termination, and, on Tuesday, he discovered that just might be the case.

A facility with the capacity to serve primarily as emergency shelter for men, women and children is the most pressing concern, and that need may be addressed with the donation of a building on the city’s south side.

Pastor Bobby Vinson is ready and willing to turn a 60,000 square foot former manufacturing building at 1914 Indiana into a shelter. He’s already done quite a bit of work on the site and said more sweat equity – and the money to get the furnaces working – is in order to complete the job.

“I have a passion to help those in need,” he told the group Tuesday afternoon. “This could be the perfect shelter; the open door for empowerment.”

To fully realize the new location as a homebase for the emergency overnight shelter will take having the property rezoned to an R-3 designation (residential) and obtaining an occupancy permit, but volunteers are already reaching out to city officials for the necessary steps.

Vinson said the property measures some seven acres and is fully fenced. It has a kitchen, bathrooms and the potential to seat up to 300 in a dining area. Additionally, it would take an initial $2,500 to get the furnaces working.

“The goal here is to prevent people from freezing to death in the winter or roasting in the summer,” Pastor Holly Anderson Anderle of First Baptist Church of Racine. “Homelessness is an ugly truth too many people want to ignore, but it is here, in the heart of Downtown Racine.”

Volunteers to staff the shelter overnight are another issue, Stewart reminded everyone.

“I have a core group of about 15, and we’re just burnt out,” he said sadly. “We feel the call and recognize the need, but we just don’t have it in us to go on without some help.”

Teams of two are required to supervise the overnight crowd, and Stewart was clear that doing so is not a walk in the park. Volunteers would need to be patient, thick-skinned, decisive, skeptical, firm, have common sense and, most importantly, be compassionate.

Whether or not overnight shelter services cease this weekend remains to be seen. Stewart and a handful of supporters are meeting Friday to discuss how the Hospitality Center can stay open for another couple of weeks. He said after the meeting he felt like a little bit of the weight he’s been carrying has eased.

“Having a plan, even one in its early stages, is extremely comforting,” he said. “I hope that we can get folks in here to help out so we can bring people in out of the cold because I’m not going to close just to prove the need. I will not leave people in the cold.”

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