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<i>Phil Pfuehler photo</i> An eightplex rental building at 235 W. Johnson St. could become an overnight emergency shelter serving area homeless families later next year.

Homeless shelter finds tentative home

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News River Falls, 54022
River Falls Journal
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River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

An eightplex rental building at 235 W. Johnson St. could become an overnight emergency shelter serving area homeless families later next year.

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Last week the Plan Commission voted to recommend that the Our Neighbors' Place group get a special use permit to operate such an emergency shelter.

Next, the City Council takes up the issue at its Tuesday, Nov. 24, regular meeting.

Our Neighbors' Place, formed earlier this year after a local homelessness summit at St. Bridget Catholic Church, is negotiating to buy the West Johnson Street eightplex.

Francis Ogden, the group's Site Committee chairman, said he's reached a verbal agreement with the eightplex owner, George Bauman.Ogden says it's urgent that River Falls have an overnight homeless shelter.

"This is a crisis and a lot of people need help, so we have to try to do something about the problem soon," he said.

West Johnson Street has many rental buildings, Ogden said, making it an appealing choice for a homeless shelter.

"It's important for people who find themselves in this situation to be able to live in a residential area just like other normal human beings," he said. "The place is right off South Main Street, so it's easy to find, and it's within walking distance of a grocery store, gas stations and a grade school. The building's in good shape and doesn't need renovation."

Mary Jo Sutton, Our Neighbors' Place committee chairwoman, said the final purchase still hinges on financing. That includes grants, private and corporate gifts and foundation money.

Sutton said the 235 W. Johnson St. homeless shelter would be the first for Pierce County.

She said that makes it easier to obtain public funding than if a shelter site had been found in St. Croix County. Grace Place in Somerset has that county's homeless shelter.

Ogden and Sutton hope to seal the deal with Bauman by February or March.

Because tenants in the eightplex have leases through next spring, Ogden said it wouldn't be until next fall before the place can be used by homeless clients.

More details on this story are available in the Nov. 12 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

For more information about the day center or the proposed homeless shelter, call 426-9000. Also check this website: www.ourneighborsplace.org.

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