The impact of the coronavirus has challenged us all to come up with creative solutions to life-and-death problems. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, of which St. Ann Center is a corporate ministry, recently found a way to help one of our city’s most vulnerable populations with the gift of shelter and compassion.
Clare Hall, which was formerly used as a residence for retired Sisters, has become a safe place for adults experiencing homelessness. The building, on the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary grounds, has been vacant since January, and the Sisters are now residing in the new St. Francis of Assisi Convent on Lake Drive.
The Archdiocese, the Seminary, the City of Milwaukee and the City of St. Francis have carefully crafted an agreement that ensures the building will be used as a shelter for a limited length of time. The following press release includes the details.
MARCH 30, 2020–The Unified Emergency Operations Center (UEOC) in Milwaukee County today announced a partnership with the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary to provide temporary shelter for residents with housing instability as part of Milwaukee County’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 will determine the outcome of this crisis for tomorrow and for the foreseeable future, and this approach must take into account residents facing housing instability,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele. “We are proud to partner with the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee as we work together to put the health and safety of all of our residents above all else. We can and will save lives as we continue to support all of our residents in a holistic, comprehensive and compassionate manner.”
Beginning Monday, March 30, 2020, temporary beds will be open at Clare Hall at 3470 South Illinois Avenue in St. Francis. To fill these emergency beds, partners within all 19 municipalities of Milwaukee County will work to identify individuals facing housing instability who are symptomatic and who face the greatest risk from COVID-19.
“Coordinated preparation and action are key to saving lives during this public health crisis. We know there will be increasing demands on housing and health care, so this effort will take us one more step forward in meeting the need,” Mayor Tom Barrett said. “I am grateful to the Archdiocese, the generous donors, and all the partners who are making this happen.”
Temporary shelter at Clare Hall was formalized in an agreement between the City of Milwaukee and the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. The City of Milwaukee provided furnishing and necessary supplies, and the Milwaukee Health Department will coordinate referrals to the facility. Health Department staff along with members of the Wisconsin National Guard, Milwaukee County housing division and the City of Milwaukee Department of Administration will provide service at Clare Hall.
“The Church always stands in the defense of life,” said Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. “This is simply the right thing to do. The Church in Milwaukee is a good community citizen, and this request also aligns with our call to ‘love one another.’ Clare Hall is located on the grounds of our Seminary, which has been preparing men for the priesthood since the mid-nineteenth century. What better example for those studying for the priesthood than for us to reach out to the most vulnerable?”
Generous donations to support the temporary shelter have been provided by the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, the Plaza Hotel in Milwaukee, Ingleside Hotel in Pewaukee, Hampton Inn on College Avenue in Milwaukee and Homewood Suites Milwaukee Downtown.
The UEOC includes elected officials from the municipalities comprising the jurisdictional boundaries of Milwaukee County, as well as local emergency managers and eleven public health officials to monitor and support the response to COVID-19. Following CDC guidance and recommendations by local public health experts, the UEOC continues to take steps to safeguard the health and wellness of the general public. In addition to advancing social distancing practices, Milwaukee supports the State of Wisconsin’s efforts to limit all activities outside of the homes beyond what is absolutely necessary for essential tasks.