SAM’s House reflects on past numbers, clients


Carol Wagner Leader Correspondent

Photo by Carol Wagner The staff of Shawano Area Matthew 25 met recently to discuss the 2017-2018 emergency shelter. From left, seated, Chris Ciucci, Pam Tadych, and Sylvia Baird; standing, Lois Welch, Jennifer Laude Bisterfeldt, Rich Montoure, and Bill Grogan. Not pictured are Adam Schulz and Tammie Guyette.

The staff and volunteers at SAM’s House ended the emergency shelter season with sadness and hope for the future. They reluctantly said goodbye to all the clients they have helped.

“Every year, the numbers have gone up significantly,” said executive director Jennifer Laude Bisterfeldt.

The first year, there were 630 adults and children and the second year 1,683. In the third year, the shelter housed 2,224 people.

“Poverty is everywhere,” Bisterfeldt said. “It’s been eye-opening to me.”

On most nights, the shelter has been at maximum capacity or over.

“We don’t have a ton of room,” she said.

However, the shelter at the former Shawano City Hall has worked out well, and SAM25 is grateful for being allowed to be able to use it. There is always fundraising and writing grants to keep the shelter open. In the future, they would like a larger building and will be working toward that in the next couple of years.

The shelter is also a resource center to keep people focused on changing their lives by referring them to different agencies, for instance the veterans and the disabled.

“We know agencies in the area,” Bisterfeldt said.

Right now, SAM25 needs help with the homeless who are looking for apartments. It also provides people with sleeping bags and tents.

“We handed out tents last year,” Bisterfeldt said. “Some of them to families.”

A new program by facilitator Chris Ciucci, “Getting Ahead in a Just Getting by World,” is starting for previous guests. There are 18 sessions twice a week with a lot of self-analysis. The program was made possible through a private donor.

Bisterfeldt is very grateful for churches, organizations and individuals who provided the evening meals at the shelter.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “The community has embraced it entirely.”

The guests get a continental breakfast in the morning and a sack lunch.

Bisterfeldt said, unlike what people think, most of the guests are born and raised in Shawano County. Often, people come into hard times and some of it is generational and difficult for people to overcome.

The shelter is open Nov. 1 to April 30 from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. The office is open Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 213 E. Green Bay Street, Shawano.

Bisterfeldt said “it is the most rewarding work” while acknowledging it can also be heartbreaking. SAM25 always welcomes more volunteers.

For more information, call the shelter at 715-851-7252.