Green Bay, Wisconsin -- Gary LaFave, the newly appointed president of Freedom House Ministries, is planning to upgrade homeless shelter. LaFave with his wife, will move the shelter into a bigger building with room for more families, a thrift shop and warehouse.
When LaFave first saw the house, he was very surprised at the poor condition of the house.
“It needs a bulldozer more than anything. It’s not the safe, encouraging environment it should be,’’ LaFave said, “These people are not complaining. It’s better than being out in a car … We need to encourage families and lift them up and give them more than just a roof over their heads.’’
LaFave said he met with Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt last week to help identify a new location for the shelter.
“We want a location where no one will be offended by a homeless shelter. We’re not going to take away from an area; if anything, we’ll enhance the area,’’ LaFave said.
“The idea is that this is a place people come to help get their lives back on track,’’ he said. “We need to give a little more dignity to these people.’’
A new shelter preferably would serve 10 to 12 families at a time, where it used to hold only 4 families, and include a warehouse and thrift shop where the charity could sell donated items to support the program, LaFave said.
According to LaFave, about 200 people are homeless in Green Bay on any given day. The shelter housed 47 families in 2003 with its six-week program and turned away more than 300 families.
Several organizations that serve the homeless, including Freedom House, are searching for a way to offer more family shelter space in Green Bay, said Karina O’Malley of the homeless advocacy group The Next Step.
“I think it’s a crisis. Families are being referred to Appleton for emergency shelter,’’ she said. She also mentioned how this would cause problems in living, disrupting education for children and put burden on people in commuting from Appleton to Green Bay.
Bridget Thaxton, one of the homeless people who are living at the Freedom House, feels lucky that she had a temporary home to stay when she was having most difficult time in her life after death of her husband.
“This place is just a blessing for me,’’ Thaxton said recently from the shelter, where she shares a room with her four children. “(Freedom House staff) were my family away from family. I really owe them a lot.’’
***** The Freedom House family shelter, 308 N. Irwin Ave., is in need of the following donations: Grocery store certificates, WPS certificates, bus passes, groceries, baby supplies, vitamins and over-the-counter medicines, computers, office supplies, men’s and women’s toiletries, and cleaning supplies, among other things. For more information, call Gary or Karla LaFave at (920) 432-1755.