The Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition began in the early 1980s as an effort to identify the needs of those displaced by the movement to transform run-down, aging neighborhoods in downtown Green Bay into more prosperous areas. During this “gentrification” period, single-room occupancy buildings (The Platten Building, Northern Building, and YMCA) closed their low rental apartments for residents. Social service providers for low income residents were concerned about the fate facing those who were displaced, fearing that many would become homeless. That did happen, and the community was not prepared to address this growing need. It was in this environment that the Brown County Task Force for the Homeless was formed with the leadership a St. Norbert College Professor, Karina O’Malley, and its first president, Lee Meyers who represented the Brown County Hunger Task Force, The United Amerindian Center, The Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, and Marion House joined in efforts to address the needs for shelter at that time. This passion to help those most in need, inspired Karina O’Malley and her husband, Lou O’Malley, to open their residence to house homeless individuals and families from 1990 to 2002. This shelter was known as “Crossroads.”
The early days of the Task Force focused on educating local City and County government officials about the impact of gentrification and the needs of those displaced. Public forums, presentations and coverage in the local media were common, and for the first time, local statistics were gathered on those seeking shelter. A Subcommittee to the Human Services Committee of the Brown County Board was formed under Task Force leadership with the goal of educating the Board about the emerging homeless population. This Subcommittee addressed issues such as, public assistance to local shelters, the need for community mental health outreach workers, transportation, and police concerns.
Ecumenical Partnership for Housing and Freedom House
In 1992, the Task Force provided encouragement for the development of The Ecumenical Partnership for Housing and Freedom House programs that served the increasing number of families with children needing shelter.
New Community Clinic
While NEW Community Clinic had been operating for many years in the community. The Task Force assisted in the development of federally funded “Healthcare for the Homeless Program” now called Outreach Healthcare.
New Community Shelter
The Task Force partnered with the Brown County Clergy Association to develop the New Community Shelter. In 1994, the shelter opened its doors to adults without children and began providing meals to anyone in the community through their Community Meal Program.
St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter
In 2000, now known as the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition, an emergency shelter subcommittee formed attempting to address the urgent need for shelter particularly in the winter months for the counties most vulnerable, those living on the streets and not eligible for other shelter options. This led to series of events including a conversation between StreetLights Outreach and Fr. Guy Blair, a new pastor at St. John the Evangelist Church, along with Lou and Karina O’Malley contributing seed monies and Karina’s continued advocacy and leadership following the passing of her husband, which enabled the development of the shelter. The Coalition sought the administrators, provided the policies, procedures, paperwork, and wrap around services that took place during the overnight and early morning during the winter months of November – March from 2005 – 2008.
The Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition continues to grow in both partnerships and service, but the desire to address the needs of persons experiencing poverty and homelessness in the community does not waiver.