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Churches gear up to act as homeless shelters

Several River Falls churches are poised to set up a traveling homeless shelter system starting in April. At a "summit" gathering last Thursday, a group of civic leaders and social service representatives said there's a growing local homeless problem that needs to be addressed.

"We know this problem is out there," First Congregational Church Pastor Chris Myers said. "It's existed for a long time, though it was mostly with transients then. Now it's beginning to affect our local families. It's been much more noticeable since last September."

Warned Pastor Frank Lukasiewicz of Servant of the Shepherd Church: "These are still the good times. The worse hasn't come yet."

The Rev. Jerry Harris of St. Bridget Catholic Church expects his church to be the first one used next month as an overnight homeless shelter. Other interested churches will host the shelter on a rotating schedule, probably week by week.

The ultimate aim is to find a building in River Falls to use as a permanent homeless shelter.

"There are simply more people living on the edge," Harris said. "This is real, it's here, and we need to take care of our brothers and sisters in this community."

An 11 a.m. Thursday, March 12, follow-up meeting will be held at St. Bridget's to talk logistics for running a homeless shelter at the local churches.

If you can help and want to participate, plan on attending. This is a practical, can-do meeting meant to figure out how to organize and supervise the shelter, plus get the necessary supplies.

For more on this story, please check the March 11 print edition of the River Falls Journal.