Heroic Efforts to Save People’s Lives

Posted January 24th, 2013 @ 9:05 AM by

No matter what the officials might tell you, not everyone gets into shelter and in this cold weather, that could mean the difference between life and death. Check out what various churches, community volunteers and private citizens have been doing!

Elected officials, community leaders, volunteers, churches and others scrambled to fill in the holes where services are failing, yet again.

During the blizzard, people were out running around looking for people who had been denied shelter. One elected official described wanting to put on her cross country skis to go check on people, but decided against after talking to her significant other who was not in favor or her risking her life as well. Us private volunteers got calls from the sheriff checking on where people were and if they were safe. It was pretty much chaos as many of us were equally trapped in our homes and feeling helpless. People, especially County Board Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner worked really hard to clarify rules, advocate to get people in to shelter and ensure that people were not turned away during and after the storm. Thinking the issues were mostly solved, but remaining skeptical, people relaxed a little. And then the cold weather stuck . . . and so did the panic, once again.

During the latest cold weather, people scrambled again. Calls went out for food and blankets and rides and volunteers to staff various locations. People scrambled to find churches willing to open their doors. Cots were picked up and dropped off. People did what they could, where they could, when they could.

Meanwhile, people asked questions like – what are the outreach workers doing? Why are people still not in shelters?

Heidi Wegleitner is asking all the right questions, trying to bring new solutions to the table and trying to make things a little less chaotic, but doesn’t get much cooperation.

Wegleitner email on Sunday to Lynn Green (Director of Human Services) as well as Porchlight, the city homeless services contract administrator (Sue Wallinger) and others.

Good morning,

Is there an outreach number people can call if they see someone unsheltered on the street during this upcoming stretch of bitter cold? I don’t have outreach worker emails at my fingertips, but would appreciate any assistance. A Minneapolis City Council member just published an outreach number on Facebook for this purpose and it seems like a simple, but effective way to reach folks. I know we don’t fund enough outreach, but I hope that during this cold spell reaching the unsheltered is a top priority for homeless services. One of the main issues, of course, is informing folks who might otherwise be suspended or banned that they can get in during severe weather (unless they pose a threat to others). That is my understanding of Porchlight policy. I am still unsure about the policies in place at Salvation Army.



She did get one response I saw.

Hi all!
The Salvation Army has the same policies for women as Porchlight has for men. There are space issues for sheltering families. Other entities are attempting to help with any family overflow. The Road Home is helping & is trying to get the faith community involved.
We are doing outreach through the day centers & the Street Team.
Lynn 🙂

She tries again for the numbers . . .

Thanks, Lynn. What is the best way to contact the outreach team, if we have specific concerns or leads for them?

Chirp. Chirp. I gave Heidi the numbers from my phone . . . but I’m not sure they were at all useful because I don’t believe there was any plan in place to deal with issues.

Fortunately, the folks at Token Creek have been taken under the wing of Pastor Hope at Living Hope Fellowship and The Transformational Church in Sun Prairie provided shelter for the Token Creek folks. Deep breath, one problem solved.

Meanwhile . . .

I called [Homeless outreach worker] who really didn’t have anything to offer, other than saying that no one is supposed to be turned away from shelter. Not helpful from the reality that we know.

I have permission to open Prairie UU if needed. Chaous and some of the organizers are looking at options.

Sarah called me, looks like something is going to happen at Prairie. We’re going to plan on a meeting at the day center around 3 or 3:30 to figure things out.

To Barb (Prairie Pres) mostly… sounds like there will be a couple families, so we may talk about opening the RE space for them, and have singles upstairs. Chili dump supper, oatmeal and scrambled eggs for breakfast? Donations will be requested, but maybe a shout-out to Prairie members would be good to do as well.

. . .

CAC is confirmed closed today, so no milk from there today. If we can go through the kitchen stuff at the center and grab some cook-able items that is not likely to be used at the center, as well as some bread and such, that would be helpful.

Dorothy Krause
Dane County Board of Supervisors
Fitchburg Common Council

Then this call goes out . . .

Dorothy K has set up her church as a place for folks without shelter to sleep tonight.
I have confirmed that Warming House is not able to serve 8 families tonight!
Road Home was able to place 2 families at a hotel, but have no additional resources.
Dorothy took 1-2 families to her church.

Transformational Church in Sun PrairiePrairie Unitarian

There is person who is Trans who is not welcome at either Mens or Womens shelter, she has schizophrenia and, occasionally, yells at her internal voices, but is otherwise gentle and safe. Sounds like she will try sleeping at Dorothy’s church tonight.

SITUATION: We need at least ONE volunteer to spend the night at the church with Dorothy. Folks who originally were able to do this have been called away for on-call and/or medical issues.

Lots more emails go back and forth, mad facebooking and lots of communications. Things worked out the best they could.

Tuesday, same thing, different day – here is a report of the results.

I just wanted to say thank you to Edward ThanksaMillion Kuharski, Barbara With, Tami Topper Schroeder and Rodney Lawler for offering to jump in their cars to provide transportation to ensure people had a roof over their heads tonight. I also wanted to thank Michele Doolan and Hal Capone for making huge servings of chili, which the Warming Shelter will use to feed people tomorrow. Big thank you to Karen Andro and First United Methodist for supplying Prairie Unitarian with delicious breakfast treats! Huge thanks to Dorothy Krause for spending the past two nights at Prairie Unitarian and opening her church’s doors to those without shelter. Also, Ecurb Muabllaw for being awesome, as always. Many thanks to Brenda Konkel for providing knitted hats and blankets from her aunt to those staying at the church. Sarah Gillmore for staying two hours late at the Warming Shelter today waiting for rides and last minute taking an additional person to the west side. Last, but not least, a big thank you to my partner, Chaous Thatcityworker Riddle, for being the best adopted mother and organizer a kid could ask for! Without all of your help, this wouldn’t have been possible. It’s heartwarming to see what we can make happen together. Go team!

And again . . .

First Unitarian Society (FUS, 900 University Bay Drive Madison, Wisconsin 53705) opened their doors for people without shelter tonight. Parish Minister Michael Schuler called me tonight and opened the doors tomorrow night and possibly on Friday, too. I’ll have a definite answer from him regarding Friday by late morning/ early afternoon today. All of our cots were transported over there today and we can shelter up to 20 individuals tonight.

X, X and X were picked up from Token Creek by Tami Topper Schroeder and Deb Bailey and brought to FUS. Where there was warm food and deserts awaiting their arrival. Deb and Tami tried to encourage those staying under bridges to stay somewhere warm, but some were concerned about being to Labor Ready for work at 5 AM and declined.

Community Action Coalition donated 16 gallons of milk and Canadian bacon for the morning. 8 gallons of milk were donated to Karen Andro and First United Methodist’s pantry. Deb and Tami tried to stop by the Warming Shelter, but Z! had locked up for the night. The remaining milk was donated to FUS and any leftover can go to the Warming Shelter.

Karen Andro from First United Methodist stayed two hours after her scheduled shift to gather bags of food to donate for dinner and breakfast. Most of the donated food will be kept at First Unitarian Society until it’s no longer being used as a emergency shelter. It will ensure that there won’t be any scrambling for food, like Wednesday, on the remaining days. We have several people cooking meals for tomorrow night, which all leftovers will go directly to the Warming Shelter on Friday. According to Sarah G, the leftover chili volunteers made on Tuesday was an absolute hit. 🙂

This morning, Ed Kuharski is picking the folks up at 8 AM from FUS and taking them to the Warming Shelter. We’re still seeking volunteers to transport folks from the Warming Shelter to First Unitarian Society at 4:30 PM tonight and to pick folks up again at 8 AM on Friday from FUS to go to the Warming Shelter. If you’re able to assist with these needs, please let Carrie (Chaous) or I know!

Thank you and I hope you all are staying warm!

Sasha Alessa Troha
Leadership Developer (LDER)
Autonomous Solidarity Organization (ASO)

All this work being done is absolutely amazing! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Everyone! Especially Sasha and Chaos for coordinating and the churches for opening their doors.

However, this is not sustainable. It is not sane. It is not what people should have to do . . . we need a better system. What would people do without these awesome volunteers?

Categories: | Dane | Madison | Media

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