Green Bay aldermen are calling for a special task force to study homelessness, after hearing concerns about the operation of a downtown shelter.
Neighbors and others voiced complaints that St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter is drawing homeless people into Green Bay and creating public nuisances.
But a City Council committee took no action against the shelter during a special meeting Monday, instead calling for a task force to examine how the community is serving homeless people.
The committee could have recommended that city planners scrutinize the shelter’s permit — a process that could have put the church-backed operation in jeopardy if violations of the permit were identified.
Alderman Jesse Brunette and others on the Protection & Welfare Committee voiced support for the shelter Monday, despite concerns raised by Mayor Jim Schmitt, police officers and neighbors.
“We can work with this model,” Brunette said. “We can work with the Catholic church.”
The shelter, operated at 411 St. John St. by the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, serves up to 64 people a day between November and April, primarily with emergency overnight accommodations.
Schmitt said a surge in policy activity associated with the shelter this year has called attention to problems in its operation. By providing shelter overnight only, Schmitt said, the facility thrusts them into the community during the day with little support to keep them out of trouble.
“I think that’s un-Christian,” he said.
Others complained that the shelter attracts alcoholics to Green Bay from outside the area, and that some of the residents create nuisances with public drinking, littering and loitering.
But supporters of the shelter said the operation provides a vital public service by helping homeless people stay warm and safe during the harsh winter weather. Some also said the facility was being unfairly blamed for deeper societal issues of poverty and addiction.
Timothy Reilly, a deacon in the diocese who serves as the shelter president, said the facility has not done anything to violate its city permit. Reilly also said the shelter is an important part of the church’s mission.
“Somebody who comes and they’re homeless, they’re a child of God,” he said. “And we’re going to help them.”
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