June 7, 2017 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend Plan Commission this week voted to approve rezoning a 1.1 acre lot on E. Water Street for the construction of a new homeless shelter.
The facility, proposed by Family Promise of Washington County, will house up to 18 men and women with 6 supportive housing apartments.
The shelter will be staffed 24 hours a day and will address the needs of the individuals and assist them with access to food and shelter and assistance to gain employment and manage money.
The four supportive housing units will be used for individuals who are still in need of more assistance.
There was some discussion and concerns aired by the Plan Commission prior to the vote.
Jed Dolnick – “What would you say would be the most common reasons people need the shelter?” Kathleen Fisher with Family Promise said, “Mostly because people don’t have the ability to pay the rent and lack of income.”
Chris Schmidt – “What’s the average period of time someone would use the facility before they get back on their feet and find affordable housing?” Fisher said, “People can stay up to 90 days. Our goal is to get them in and out in 30 days. With the apartments they could stay up to 1 year and that gives us more time to work with them on the issues whether it’s mental health, addiction, finding a job, education, in order to live independently.”
Adam Williquette – “Do you see any problems with the proximity to the baseball fields down the street.” Fisher responded. “There will be 24-hour supervision so our goal is to maintain quality control and care of the folks in the shelter program.”
Jim White – “The six supportive housing apartments that this can be up to a year, is this considered temporary or permanent or semi-permanent housing?” Fisher said, “It would be permanent supportive housing but our goal is to get them in and out in 12 months.”
Steve Hutchins was asked by fellow Plan Commission member Dolnick if he had any concerns. “I live right across the street and I’ve got the whole block that’s concerned. You bring up people with mental health issues and addiction, let me go though the list because it blew up really good on me. They’re worried about land values, they’re worried about people walking around, wonder what kind of people you have in there, are you having male and female, what’s the age bracket and how long they’re going to be there and how well they’re supervised and where they’re going. I’m having a really hard time with this. I’m having a lot of people coming at me, that’s why I’m voting the way I am.”
Williquette – “At the end of the day this is still on county campus and still separated by the Samaritan driveway and there’s also a lot of trees in the front yard. I guess I’m OK with it but I guess that’s where I’m sitting.”
Schmidt – “I have four kids and three of them playing baseball and I was just down at Little League last night and when there’s activity down there it’s not just confined. That Samaritan driveway and tree line doesn’t really buffer, cars park all the way up to the Gehl parking lot. I want to support the mission, I think it’s a noble effort. Do you know what the statistics police get called for a facility like this? This area is heavily traveled by kids from 5 years old to 14. I wish there was a better area. I understand the benefits of this property. It’s a good mission and I don’t want to downplay it.”
Fisher said, “The Promise Center is across the street from Holy Angels and we’ve never had any issues from our neighbors. To be honest, right now there is no shelter and I hired a masters level social worker to help us serve the men and women who are on the streets who can’t be served by Family Promise. There are more homeless than ever out on the street. We’re trying to help them to the best of our ability. The best we can do is throw in a frozen dinner and a cup of coffee, try to find them housing and say ‘sorry we have no shelter in our county.’ We can get them to another county but we have nothing for you right now. They’re there now unsupervised and to have a 24-hour shelter makes the community safer. It’s very difficult to do anything with the guys that are sleeping in a tent down by the river or underneath the bridge. You’re more at risk without a shelter than with a shelter.”
Dolnick – “If this would fronting Indiana Avenue I’d have a real problem with that. There is a considerable buffer up to Indiana Avenue and this isn’t a halfway house, or a residential treatment center, it’s not being used by probation and parole. I wouldn’t vote for it if I thought it would present a problem to the neighborhood and we do desperately need to have something like this.”
Both the rezoning of the 1.1 acre lot from industrial to institutional and a site plan for a 7,053 square foot emergency shelter passed Plan Commission on a 4-1 vote with Dist. 2 alderman Steve Hutchins casting the lone dissenting vote. Plan Commission chairman Kraig Sadownikow recused himself from the meeting as he is the contractor on the project and Sarah Fleishman was absent.