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The Full Story

As early as 2014, members of the Oneida community and those from surrounding areas came together to discuss a growing concern to help those affected by not having a place to call home.

This group, led by Pearl Webster continued to justify and share the need to service the homeless population in a positive way. Actual data gathering via community surveys, data collection via specific departments within the Oneida Nation, and documented data from local like entities was captured. This information continued to validate the need for services to native people who were lacking adequate housing and opportunities to improve their housing and lifestyle situations.

Between 2015 and 2018, a small group continued to work towards developing services, such as meals, overnight sleeping, a warming or cooling site, a place for showering, and providing a package of survival items. Unfortunately, due to loss of momentum, development declined until a renewed interest in 2019.

David Jordan, Oneida Business Committee (OBC), offered to sponsor our group to share in a working meeting with the OBC regarding our team's mission to provide services to a growing homeless population. From this meeting, a mutual interest was apparent. The OBC requested more information be provided to them. From that point, along with David, Jennifer Webster, and Kirby Metoxen offered to be the shelter group’s liaison.

A formal presentation was provided to the OBC on July 17, 2019, that demonstrated in more detail what was occurring in the local Green Bay area shelters. A presenter from St. Johns Homeless Shelter assisted in validating the need for services in the Oneida Community. At that point in time a total of 20% of St Johns shelter was being populated by Natives from various tribes. Bev Scow, Wise Women Gathering Place Assistant Director shared that they have between 20 – 25 families on their waiting list for housing.

During this same period our group continued to meet. At each meeting the topic of utilizing an existing vacant Oneida Nation building came up, specifically the former Oneida Accounting Building at 2155 Hutson Rd Green Bay. The department oversight of this building was Oneida Department of Public Works (DPW) Director,Jacque Boyle, who had been directly involved in our search for a building for some time. This building had been vacant for 10 years and needed updates to operate as a homeless shelter. However, the location is in an industrial area, is on the bus lines, is close to retail stores and sits in a wooded, secluded private area. Fortunately, our prayers were answered as both the DPW Director and Assistant Director offered their support and rationale as to how this could become a reality.


On July 18, 2019, a request was made by David Jordan, OBC Councilman to approve the submission of a request by the Homeless Shelter Team to the Economic Development Diversification and Community Development Fund for a facility renovation. Subsequently this request was granted via BC Resolution
#08-28-19-A for a Day Warming Shelter.

All the right things were being done to advance our teams knowledge regarding best practices in developing a homeless shelter. Our team toured several shelter environments and heard from respective staff regarding operations. Pearl Webster visited Mayor Genrich in September 2019 to explain the vision of a homeless facility at 2155 Hutson Rd, Green Bay. Mayor Genrich supports the local shelters and expressed his willingness to continue the support of Oneida efforts in any capacity he was able. It was important to establish relationships in a transparent manner. Partnerships were being discussed with Oneida and Green Bay entities that would offer resources, education, health/welness to our residents to assist in their journey of improving housing & lifestyle arrangements.

Throughout Fall, Winter 2019 options for service type were re-visited. A full gamut of options and respective operations was explored to determine implications for funding, manpower, and fiscal responsibility. An initial vision was to plan for a night shelter for adult males and females. However, the data was clear that family shelters were in great need.

Together, with Oneida Planning, floor plans were reviewed, existing structure looked at what was needed to accommodate ADA and safety issues, and what restroom updates might be needed respective to serve emergency day shelter services.

In March 2020 Covid halted Shelter planning and development. Along with this came an economic downturn within the Oneida Nation causing the Economic Development Diversification and Community Development Fund to re-allocate the funds set aside for Shelter renovation. This was a significant setback. Individuals agreeing to be participants of Shelter Board of Directors responded to the stay-at-home practices, so in essence the shelter project came to a standstill for several months.

In Fall 2020 Safe Parking began in the upper parking lot at 2055 Hitson Rd Green Bay WI. which was funded and operated by Wise Women Gathering Place. This program is not associated with the homeless Shelter concept.

August 11, 2020, Shelter meetings started again via virtual sessions. It was now decided that Shelter occupancy would include families and single male and female adults. Collaboration began with Oneida Planning to develop floor plans and highlight major renovations required for occupancy. Original members returned to discuss floor plan, design, required code needs, shelter name, and a multitude of other changes needed for this building.

On October 22, 2020, Oneida homeless shelter Board of Directors reconvened. The board consisted of 3 active members at this time. The project now had to revise previous goals and objectives to reference shelter now being a family shelter. This task also including defining a new Mission statement based on values of the group that had already been determined.

The name of the family/single adult shelter would be Safe Shelter. At this time, Garth Webster, graphic designer, created a logo to depict the mission of the shelter. See the Home page for this logo.

Between October 2020 and January 2021 planning and developing continued. Safe Shelter Board of Directors had grown to 7 committed individuals. As the founder of Safe Shelter, I take great pride in developing a culturally sensitive, sound, effective and sustainable transitional homeless shelter. I have been fortunate to recruit individuals internally and externally who have been impactful in developing and implementing Safe Shelter to where it is today.

In February of 2021 Oneida Planning began construction. Oneida Planning continued developing and modifying floor plans to accomplish design to meet the populations that will be cared for in Safe Shelter. On-going plans for the many intricacies inside and outside the building were continually being reviewed throughout the construction process.

Again, renovations of this magnitude are costly and a debt of gratitude to the Oneida Nation and Oneida Housing who channeled a significant amount of CARES monies toward this building’s renovations. Oneida Planning devoted a well-versed staff member who has diligently monitored the construction since its beginning.  Progress has been reported out weekly and questions, concerns responded to in a timely manner.

This CARES funding moved things forward sooner than expected, so it was necessary to partner with an established nonprofit organization who would agree to act as a Fiscal Agent until such a time Safe Shelter obtained required credentialing to act independently. Alice Skenandore Wise Women Gathering Place (WWGP) Director and her staff agreed to act in this capacity.

In January 2020 WWGP had written for an Emergency Solutions Grants Coronavirus Program (ESG-CV) as funded by the CARES Act and governed by requirements HUD establishes in accordance with that Act. These special ESG-CV funds are to be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) among individuals and families who are homeless or receiving homeless assistance; and to support additional homeless assistance and homelessness prevention activities to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

WWGP was awarded the ESG-CV in March 2020 in the amount of 500K specifically to be used for shelter operations. This grant period is April 1, 2021, through April 30, 2022. Again, with much gratefulness, the shelter team began providing the shelter with many of the critical needs to operate. Examples, such as a pantry size refrigerator, a freezer,2 sets of heavy-duty washers/dryers, technical equipment, furniture (bunk beds, mattresses).

On April 4,2021 Safe Shelter became Safe Shelter Incorporated. On August 25, 2021, Safe Shelter submitted an application for their 501c3 license.
Everything is beginning to come together through collaboration internally and externally. There was a small amount of funding that could be used for staffing, so in July 2021 I was hired under the ESG-CV grant as the Safe Shelter Coordinator which will change once this grant is over in April 2022. 
In August 2021 Sara Williams from WWGP joined Safe Shelter as Shelter Specialist, also under ESG-CV grant.


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