Local homeless shelter struggles to stay open

By: Olga Michail Email
By: Olga Michail Email

RICE LAKE, Wis. (WEAU) -- A local shelter that’s helped more than 250 people in the past two years, might be forced to close its doors because of financial struggles.

Benjamin's House in Rice Lake has until the 30th of April to either find funds to keep the shelter open or find jobs and places to live for 15 people who might end up on the streets.

Seven out of eight shelter employees who are trained to help residents find jobs and get on their feet were laid off a week ago, leaving the executive director and an AmeriCorps volunteer to find the way out of this. Shelter's director Stephanie Thompson says hope is the only thing that's left to help them break through this vicious circle.

“Where do we go from here, how do we help these people find housing, find jobs, it's kind of starting all over again,” said Shelter volunteer with the AmeriCorps Program, Amber Marielinschead.

One-is the age of the youngest resident of Benjamin’s House. Two- is the number of full time employees left. 20- thousand dollars per month is the cost to keep the shelter open; it’s a numbers game that the shelter is forced to play.

“It felt like the world just dropped out from under my feet, I had finally found some stable ground to get on my feet and then it was gone,” said shelter resident, Donna Redman.

“It’s more than just a place to stay, they help you figure out what’s going on in your life, help people figure out where to go next and how to get through it,” said resident Amanda Majors, holding her one-year-old daughter Chloe.

“Some of the workers that have been laid off are coming back to help, because they're heart and soul is in this facility,” said Marielinschead.

Residents came together too, and are helping each other in every way they can, But the Director says only bringing in more money through donations can save Benjamin’s House.

“Right now we're concentrating on people to make pledges, monthly pledges so we can be sustained over the period of time. We do need help right now but we will still need help in the future. It’s not something that's going to go away immediately. People are homeless every day,” said Thompson.

"If there is anyone that's willing to help- we need it, you know, their life depends on it,” added Marielinschead.

Thompson says the shelter is working closely with the work force center and other shelters to help people living at Benjamin’s house now. She says as long as there are people at the shelter she will keep fighting to keep it open.

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