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As cold months approach, short-staffing forces Green Bay shelter to consolidate

St John's Ministries offers overnight shelter to adults who are experiencing homelessness and turned away from other facilities

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People touring a new homeless shelter in Green Bay
People get a tour of a women’s shelter operated by St. John’s Ministries before its opening in fall 2022. (Photo courtesy of St. John’s Ministries)

Short-staffing is forcing a homeless shelter in Green Bay to consolidate its operations.

The announcement from St. John’s Ministries comes as the facility prepares to open later this week before the coldest months of the year.

Last year, the ministry opened a women’s-only overnight facility. But for now, the organization is going back to sheltering men and women in a single building. That’s because about a quarter of the organization’s shelter shifts remain unfilled as the shelters prepare to open for the cold-weather season, Executive Director Jesse Brunette said.

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St. John’s provides overnight refuge to adults from November through April. It’s considered a shelter of last resort, which means it accepts people who are turned away from other facilities because they struggle with issues such as substance abuse or mental illness.

“We reach people that quite literally have nowhere else to go,” Brunette said. “Without us, chances are people would be freezing on the streets here in Green Bay.”

Last season, the ministry sheltered 418 men and 187 women, according to a news release. Along with respite from the cold, the organization offers access to food, showers, laundry and case management.

St. John’s leadership plans to evaluate hiring for support, security and shift lead positions on a weekly basis, with the goal of reopening the women’s-only shelter sometime this year. Pay for the seasonal positions starts out at between $15 and $16 an hour, Brunette said. The hours are from 4 p.m to midnight or from midnight to 9 a.m.

“If we get five to 10 to 15 staff members who can work a variety of hours, we should be able to fill the shortage in our shifts,” Brunette said.

He said the women’s shelter created a positive environment — one that the ministry hopes to replicate this season.

“What we’re really aiming towards to fulfilling this year is an environment for women in our community who are homeless adult women to be in a shelter amongst other women who have also experienced trauma, domestic abuse, trafficking,” Brunette said. “Any concern that may be specific to a woman.”

St John’s Ministries also operates two year-round daytime centers in Green Bay, which connect people with resources, including computer labs, sobriety support and job readiness classes. Those facilities continue to operate as normal, Brunette said.

In nearby Oshkosh, the Day By Day warming shelter temporarily shut down last winter because of issues include short-staffing. Employees for Winnebago County stepped in to help keep that shelter open before it was able to resume normal operations.

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