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GB Mayor Jim Schmitt supports outside takeover of St. John's homeless shelter


GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - An informational public meeting about a possible solution to help the Green Bay area’s homeless, turned into a discussion about Mayor Jim Schmitt’s idea for an outside group to take over operations and management of the downtown St. John’s emergency homeless shelter. 

“This sure looks like a sandbagging operation to close St. John’s,” said St. John’s volunteer Pat Lane.

The Protection and Welfare Committee was hearing from the city’s homeless task force and their recommendation to start a day time resource center for homeless residents.  It would be run by Lutheran Social Services. 

At the meeting, Schmitt unveiled his desire to see Freedom Life Skills take over the facility and to operate the site. 

Schmitt has long felt that the St. John's homeless shelter doesn't adequately support homeless residents by helping them get back on their feet.

Freedom Life Skills President Gray LaFave says “we have to have a program and an opportunity to bring homeless people into a program that’s not necessarily a shelter.” 

The organization would offer tuition based programming that would be 24-7 year round at the facility.    

There have been growing issues expressed by police about homeless residents during the daytime hours. 

St. Johns homeless shelter is open for six months out of the year to provide shelter from the winter elements.   

St. John’s Executive Director Alexia Wood says there are numerous reasons why they don’t operate 24-7 year round, mainly because of finances and inadequate facilities. 

St. John’s relies heavily on volunteers, and operates on a roughly $400,000 annual budget. 

Wood says they met with Freedom Life Skills a couple weeks ago in the spirit of collaboration but were blindsided with “renovations plans to come in and take over the building.”