Emergency shelter being constructed inside Winona church

The shelter would provide for families going through emergency housing situations

WINONA, Minn. (WKBT) – Wesley United Methodist Church in Winona is undergoing some changes for good use.

A large portion of the basement is being renovated for a shelter for families going through emergency housing situations.

Over the years, church has been a place for people to come together.

But things eventually started looking grim for the church.

“We had many portions of the facility that were not being used,” lead pastor Robert Hicks said.  “It looked like our community was going to have to walk out the door and sell the building, because we didn’t have a proper focus, and our funds were running out.”

But as one door closed, another door opened.

“Kind of our mantra was if we’re keep the building, we need to give it away,” Hicks said. “And so, we’ve been active with opening some of our rooms.”

Hicks says opening an emergency shelter was a top priority.

“If somebody is without housing or is in need of protection for their family, there’s really minimal choices in our area,” Hicks said.

Church staff started contacting several organizations around the city.

“We’ve been working with many other groups in the area,” Hicks said. “Religious groups, as well as the Habitat for Humanity and the community college here in town.”

And they answered the call.

“We can lend our expertise to an agency ready to take on a sheltering project,” Habitat for Humanity Winona-Fillmore Counties executive director Amanda Hedlund said. “And that helps us cover more of the affordable housing needs in our community.”

It’s also a great opportunity for the college students.

“It’s a good experience to kind of work with the community,” Minnesota State College Southeast student Joshua Husman said. “It’s great to have the hands-on experience out in the field, rather than learning right in the classroom.”

All in all, everything is right on schedule.

“I’m feeling really great about it, because we’re finally making progress on it,” Hicks said.

The emergency shelter will have a bedroom, kitchen, bathrooms and showers, and well as a lounge area.

The shelter can support up to 12 people.

Families would have to go through a background check in order to stay at the shelter.

Construction began in January this year.

Officials say they hope the shelter is completed by the end of the summer.