Menomonie will get new warming shelter to help with homelessness - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Menomonie will get new warming shelter to help with homelessness

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Menomonie (WQOW) - We all know that economic times are tough right now. But those economic problems are forcing more people out of their homes and putting them on the streets. That's leading to an increase in homelessness that counties are trying to deal with. A new shelter could help with the problem in Menomonie.

Times are tough in Dunn County.

"We have the fourth highest poverty rate in the state of Wisconsin. Our poverty rate last year was quoted at 15.1%," says Heidi Hooten, a Coordinator with Stepping Stones.

Homelessness is on the rise, and shelters like Stepping Stones are at capacity trying to provide shelter to those in need.

"We housed almost 280 individuals last year in Dunn County, and that's just at our shelter," Hooten says.

A group of volunteers are hoping to ease that demand, by starting a warming shelter called Winter Haven.

"The reason that we chose the warming shelter is that it was a low cost option to kind of capture that overflow, especially during the winter months," says Hooten.

Winter haven will open on November 1, in the basement of St. Joseph's Parish in downtown Menomonie.

"It's important for our community to realize that there are people that are in need. We all know the winter months can be quite brutal," says St. Joe's member Julie Bendel.

Through March, the shelter will be open overnight, providing dinner and breakfast, but no places to sleep. Zoning laws prohibit the warming house from offering beds.

"This is all word of mouth. There's an incredible grapevine of information in the homeless community. This is just going to be for adults, so I would say we could very consistently have 10-15 individuals," Hooten says.

The shelter will also provide access to showers through vouchers, bus tokens and a place to do laundry.

"It's pretty bare bones. It's overnight, a safe place to stay out of the elements," Bendel says.

Bare bones, but more than needed.

Winter haven is looking for volunteers to staff the shelter and to prepare and serve meals. If you'd like to volunteer, you can call (715) 235-2975.

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