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About a dozen people protested along Main Street near Memorial Square to voice their concerns about people being turned away from the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization and the need for an emergency shelter in the community. Holding signs that said: Need shelter, shelter now, and we can’t, HALO won’t, who will? The group marched through town trying to raise awareness of the issue. But the void has yet to be addressed in the community. The overnight emergency program at the Hospitality Center ended for good in April while it maintained its day services. But many guests at the Hospitality Center ended up receiving vouchers after HALO either refused to take some of them. Joannie Williams, a volunteer at the Hospitality Center, said the men had no other alternatives and they were housed at Riverside Inn. But those vouchers ran out. Four homeless men are now living in an abandoned building. One of the men — a man named Todd — ended up getting beat up Saturday morning just before the protest. This was exactly what they were trying to avoid, Williams said. “He had let two other guys stay with him because they had no place to go,” Williams said. “I just got a phone call from one of the men saying Todd is beat up pretty badly and he needed to go to the emergency room.” Warren Williams, a pastor at Atonement Lutheran Church, picked Todd up, but he decided he didn’t want to go to the emergency room. “This is what we worry about. They are out there and it’s not just because it’s cold, not just from lack of water and food… but from lack of safety from other people…. These people are in need of shelter and a safe place to stay,” Joannie said. “HALO is a program, not a shelter anymore. “A lot of the men have alcohol or drug addiction or mental health issues and aren’t allowed into HALO, so they refuse.” Holly Anderson Anderle, a pastor at First Baptist Church of Racine, said she also helped a 23-year-old woman who was seven months pregnant that just gotten out of jail. The police tried to get her into HALO, but they told them she was banned because she had anger issues. “Her mother died, she’s a second generation foster care kid and I understand it, she’s had a terrible year,” Anderson Anderle said. “We had to drive her to Kenosha to their Rest Program (an emergency shelter program).” Meetings were held this spring about coming up with a long-term solution, but no resolution to the problem has been found. While the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization (HALO) does offer an emergency shelter, participants have to follow strict guidelines to stay and sometimes they turn away people who have alcohol, drug or mental health issues. “We understand that these guys have mental health issues, but don’t they deserve a place to stay in the winter if there’s room?” said Dixie VanRemmen. “We need help and we need it now.” Editor’s Note: The Hospitality Center did not sponsor the protest. However, Hospitality Center volunteers were involved.      

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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.