BARABOO, Wis. - It has been 21 months since Baraboo's only homeless shelter closed for good. Now the Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter, a new organization, has finally found the location for the next shelter.
The almost 5,000 square foot former memory care center on Silver Circle will house 30 clients, including a wing for about 12 women, children and families and a wing for 18 men.
"There were probably 80 to 100 people in Sauk County that were homeless at any given time during the last year," said Rev. Dave Mowers, the Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter president. "We know anecdotally and from police data that there are a lot of folks around living in their cars because right now there's no Baraboo (shelter), no homeless shelter in Sauk City, Prairie du Sac, there is a homeless shelter for women and children only in Reedsburg. So right now there are no beds for men in the whole county."
When the last shelter closed, Mowers, who is the rector at Trinity Episcopal Church, made it his mission to create a new one.
"Jesus cares about those folks so for me that's been the only motivator that I needed," said Mowers.
He said an initial site in West Baraboo fell through because zoning wouldn't allow a homeless shelter. Although the site on Silver Circle needed to be rezoned and renovated, the Department of Safety and Professional Services approved the plans last week.
On Tuesday, Mowers gave Wisconsin DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim and Rep. Dave Considine a tour of the space.
The plan is to have a male and female live-in managers. Mowers said those positions could be filled by people who are recently homeless and showing good responsibility.
The shelter will also help connect clients to local resources, a service not offered at the previous shelter.
Although the building is mostly empty and the kitchen cabinets and counters were stolen by vandals, donations are quickly filling up rooms.
Slumberland is donating beds and mattresses, Fiesta Foods is donating food, SSM Health St. Clare Hospital has donated furniture and even a local cafe has donated dining chairs. These are just some of the donations expected from the community.
"It does not surprise me at all that people are coming literally out of the woodwork to volunteer equipment, time, work, food, clothes and everything else that's going to be required for this facility to be a success. That's who Baraboo is," said Baraboo Mayor Mike Palm.
The Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter has raised $100,000 so far. Mowers estimates they will need another $20,000 to cover renovations and the operating budget for the first year.
Mowers expects the shelter to open next spring once the renovations are done.