La Crosse day shelter to help homeless get on their feet

Center will provide resources

First came the opening of an updated warming shelter now organizers from the non-profit Shelter Development are onto the next step; opening a day shelter with a twist.

Anyone who steps into the shelter needing help will be directed to one of several community groups that will have space there.

The rule is if you don’t want help you have to leave.

A local business owner who operates near the proposed center’s site said this will actually be good for his shop.

Brent Welch can relate to the homeless.

“Before we started this I was one of those kids,” Brent Welch, owner of Tree Huggers, said.

After bouncing back he opened a business and opened those doors to the less fortunate.

“I feel bad for a guy for sitting outside freezing,” Welch said.

But his generosity wasn’t helping his brand.

“It would deter from shoppers from wanting to come in,” Welch said.

So when Welch found out a new homeless day center was going across the street he was relieved.

“I think it would give them a place to go to be able to use the bathrooms, to be able to do what they need to do without feeling like they need to come into retail or even a bar,” Welch said.

Organizers of the new center said this project isn’t a gathering spot for the homeless but a way to get them their on their feet.

“It’s in a commercial area but that’s not a problem because it’s not a shelter,” Rick Staff, president of the non-profit group Shelter Development,” Staff said. “They’ll get a cup of coffee maybe a sandwich but someone will be talking to them.”

Staff said the downtown location is an easily accessed one stop shop for help.

“There will be a receptionist, an intake person to greet the people. They’ll know where the services are in the community and they’ll be able to connect that person coming in with the right organization,” Staff said.

For Welch the development is a welcomed addition to the block and an approach to ending homelessness he thinks could work.

“Them trying to help them out, get them back on their feet is more important than giving them a place to stay it keeps they cycle going,” Welch said.

The center located on south 4th street could be opened as early as Jan 15.

Organizers said they’re not sure what groups will be there to help but they will have that worked out soon.

Anyone interested in donating to the day shelter can call Rick Staff at (608)385-8953 or email him at Rickstaff@ghrealtors.com.