City approves relocation of emergency homeless shelter

SAM25 plans adding larger resource center, thrift store, future clinic at new site

The Shawano Common Council Wednesday approved a conditional use permit allowing for the relocation of the emergency homeless shelter run by Shawano Area Matthew 25 to what is currently the New Era House at 105-107 E. Richmond St.

The shelter has entered into an agreement to purchase the New Era House, with a goal of closing the sale by late April, but plans a fundraising campaign to pay for the remodeling of the facility.

“Over these past five years, SAM25 has furthered its vision that our community works together to meet the needs of those living in poverty, and offers the structured opportunity to gain self-sufficiency and to have hope for a better future,” SAM25 President Muffy Culhane told the council.

The shelter also offers a Steps to Success program for its clients, as well as classes on subjects such as renting, budgeting, employment and parenting under a program called Getting Ahead in a Just Getting By World.

In addition to the homeless shelter, the new space will allow for a larger resource center, a thrift store and a future community medical/dental clinic, Culhane said.

SAM25 has been leasing the building that currently is utilized for SAM’s House, located at 213 E. Green Bay St. since its inception. Shawano Municipal Utilities owns the building.

Culhane said that location has been an ideal place to start out.

“We are very grateful to the city and SMU for allowing us the use of this building,” she said, but added that SAM’s House has outgrown that space.

SAM’s House is the only emergency homeless shelter in Shawano County.

“What you’ve done over the past five years has been tremendous and I know you’ve been very proactive and helped a lot of people,” Alderwoman Rhonda Strebel said.

But Strebel noted there were some unwarranted concerns from some people opposed to the facility when it was first proposed that it would draw homeless people from other communities into Shawano.

“These are our local citizens that are using these services,” she said. “These are our local community members using these services.”

Police Chief Dan Mauel said there have been few if any problems at the shelter.

“I and our department are big supporters of this group,” he said. “There’s a need for it. We see these folks, we see the homeless families, we see the homeless kids. We see what they go through. And it’s a great resource for us.”

Mauel said those using the shelter are local people.

“I would say nine out of 10 are local folks,” he said. “I get the list every week and we look at it and it is all local names.”

Mauel said the police department has had no issues with the shelter other than one or two minor incidents over the years that the shelter has been operating.

“We’ve been there two or three times on complaints,” he said. “We go there a lot to assist their guests getting in late at night. We bring guests to them late at night and I can’t say enough good things about them.”

Mayor Ed Whealon said there had been a lot of misconceptions about the shelter and who uses it.

“It hasn’t been an issue for the police department and it’s actually been a resource for the department and the community,” Whealon said.

“I’m very proud to be in this community with these folks who volunteer and take their time out of their lives to do good for other people,” Alderwoman Sandy Steinke said.

SAM25 began as a grassroots effort by local citizens who were concerned about the growing poverty in the Shawano area. The group started meeting in 2013, organized as a 501c3 non-profit in 2014 and opened SAM’s House emergency homeless shelter in November 2015.

The shelter is open Nov. 1 through April 30.

Since opening, SAM’s House has provided 5,277 nights of stay to 207 adults and 66 children. Guests at SAM’s House are given a safe place to sleep, meals and support to ensure they are provided opportunities to leave the shelter to a more stable living situation.