Monday, August 13, 2012

Benjamin's House

In January 2009, a group of interested individuals from 20 Barron County public and private organizations began meeting monthly to address the issue of rural homelessness and its negative impact on the health and well-being of people without shelter. They welcomed this opportunity to work together to create a comprehensive service delivery system to provide for basic needs and to address the issues resulting in homelessness.

The idea to develop an emergency shelter was born.

A Board of Directors was formed, and that group of dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly in 2009 to form an organizational structure to carry out its mission: To work together as a nonprofit agency with community organizations and individuals to provide housing opportunities for the homeless population in Barron County.

Benjamin’s House Emergency Shelter, Inc. (led by Stephanie Thompson, executive director, pictured left) is a homeless shelter located on Heart Island in Rice Lake, Wis. It provides safe, stable, temporary shelter (90-day maximum) for Barron County residents, single or families, working toward permanent housing with assistance from staff. The Shelter has 17 private rooms and can house up to 24 individuals.

At Benjamin’s House, focus is on the residents and their specific needs by utilizing a wraparound case management model. In addition to focusing on housing and employment, the shelter assists residents with medical and mental health resources, budgeting education, nutritional needs, and transportation assistance. Part of our goal is to help to strengthen each resident, helping them learn to make healthy choices and make sustainable changes in their lives.

The funding the shelter has received from the Otto Bremer Foundation is being used for the current project, "Supportive Services for Residents," to meet many needs of the homeless individuals staying at the shelter. These service could include transportation assistance to and from medical, dental, and mental health appointments; transportation for employment and housing searches; prescription medications; personal care items, and clothing for interviews.

Posted by Maltee McMahon, NRS, Wisconsin

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