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St. John’s Homeless Shelter staff propose pilot program to “Engage” homeless at area park

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 9:37 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Leaders of St. John’s Homeless Shelter are proposing a plan to extend its homeless outreach services across the street to St. John’s Park.

The park has become a common place for people who are struggling with homelessness to gather.

“A lot of the guests who end up using this park are chronically homeless,” explains Matt Kadlec, associate executive director at St. John’s Homeless Shelter.

Shelter staff and the police department saw an increase of people using St. John’s park last summer, which caused some issues.

“We did respond to over 100 calls that were disturbances, open intoxicants, sometimes like trespass and things like that,” said Paul VanHandel, a community police officer with the Green Bay Police Department.

Now, homeless shelter staff have proposed a pilot program to provide counseling services directly at the park from May to the end of October.

“I want to address the whole person, so I’m looking at mental health, physical health, nutrition, exercise, we also want to look at financial, it’s important to be self-sufficient,” said Kadlec.

St. John’s would be the only city park where homeless outreach services would be offered and those entering the park would be required to sign a code of conduct.

“It’s really just saying that every person that utilizes this park will follow the rules set by the park department that are already in effect,” said Kadlec.

Some alders took issue with requiring people to sign an agreement during Wednesday’s Parks Committee meeting

“It’s still a public park. I like the idea of having accountability, I think accountability can be achieved in many ways without having someone sign their name to a piece of paper,” said Alder Jesse Brunette.

One area business owner is also concerned the problem may move to another park if people are denied entry.

Shawn Smith, the general manager of Newcomer Funeral Home, told the parks committee about some experiences he’s had with people who are homeless.

“We have personally experienced a horrible problem in the downtown area with homeless defecation on our property, vandalization. We have most recently had a violent individual unlawfully entering the building, threating our staff here,” said Smith.

The pavilion at the park would be staffed by case workers Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. A variety of programming would be offered to help individuals develop life skills.

The parks committee approved the proposal which will be taken up by the city council next week.

Shelter staff would update the parks department midway through the summer on the success of the program.

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