The La Crosse Community Warming Center is now open for the season! Without volunteers like Joel, we would never be able to keep our doors open to serve hundreds of individuals experiencing homelessness each season. Help us thank Joel by reading his story and consider signing up to volunteer at the La Crosse Warming Center this season!
Joel has been volunteering at the La Crosse Warming Center for 4 years. As a chaplain at the American Legion Post, Joel has watched solid men and women go from homes to homeless, and became interested in helping homeless veterans. Joel said that he was lucky enough to find the Warming Center.
Joel is a veteran himself and experiences some health challenges that make the early-morning shift from 2:00 am to 8:30 am ideal for him. Joel said, “It’s a win-win for me. I get to be productive, help people, make sure they get a warm breakfast and warm clothes, and my family (the Warming Center) gives back to me a sense of purpose.”
Joel said that he loves working the early morning shift because as all of the guests at the Warming Center get up to face a brand new day, he gets to encourage a sense of hope and promise for the day to come. The seemingly small gesture of providing a warm hat and a greeting, “Have a good day, stay safe,” that so many of us take for granted, Joel feels lets our guests know they are cared for and have value as human beings.
As a volunteer, Joel said the greatest thing he’s gained is a deep, complex empathy for the situations that drive everyday people from their homes into the streets. He has gained the skill of being able to truly listen to someone without being judgmental. Part of that, Joel said, is the atmosphere of equality at the Warming Center. He shared, “I can’t tell you how many times a season I will come to the door and knock to be let in so as to start my shift only to be told that we’re full…The advice I would give new volunteers is never to judge anyone. Essentially you can never tell who needs shelter or why they need shelter, only that they need shelter.”
Joel shared that his mission is driven by knowing. A long time ago the son of God carried the things he owned and relied on the goodness of the people he met every day for food, shelter, and companionship. No matter your mission or story, Joel encourages anyone who has a sense of service to others to volunteer at the Warming Center.
We know we have so much to give to those around us, but there is also so much to gain as a volunteer. After sharing a heartwarming story of laughing and joking with the guests, Joel said, “That is a memory I shall treasure for the rest of my life.”
The first line of the Beyond Shelter brochure reads, “A home is more than simply a shelter; it’s a foundation that allows one to focus on the future.”
On June 8 three men walked into their new home for the first time. These three men who came from very different lives had one thing in common. Until that day, they were homeless. This was an emotional day for everyone. “This carpet is softer than the ground I slept on” was what one of these men said that first day. One gentleman spent his first day trying to find the recliner that was most comfortable after being discharged from the hospital earlier that day. Barely able to walk or stand for any length of time, he began to heal with a roof over his head instead of sleeping in the woods as he had the week before. “We have a fridge. We have food. I can take a shower whenever I want.” These are all things heard that first day. Things most people take for granted. In less than sixty days the world as these three men knew it had changed.
One has already moved on and now lives independently in a house with his girlfriend. He has talked about going back to school to get a degree and a good paying job with the hope of getting involved in his young son’s life.
One has volunteered almost every day at the “Open Door” (a local program that helps recently released inmates get back on their feet). He now has a paid position there and has even been promoted to weekend supervisor and key holder. This gentleman has a passion for reading and music. He has begun building a “Free Little Library” as a way of giving back to his new neighborhood and to share his passion for reading. He continues to play his guitar and has even offered lessons to staff.
The third gentleman is still recovering from his knee replacement and continues to improve each day. He has physical therapy three times a week and is not only able to walk, but now rides his bike daily. He too has started to work again. Through the generosity of Goodwill’s training program, this gentleman will learn valuable job skills and get paid while rebuilding a work history.
Next week the life of another chronically homeless individual will change forever when he moves into the Beyond Shelter Home and begins to build his future…
Beyond Shelter Coordinator
I have been with Catholic Charities for over 2 years now. My feelings are the same for this organization as when I first walked in the doors. Our community is hurting and we at Catholic Charities are here to offer hope. I am grateful for the amazing group of individuals in the Wausau Office where I work. Together, we greet the many faces that enter our building, we take the time to listen to our clients to find out what their needs are, and then we do our best to assist. Sometimes, it is just an ear that the client is looking for. I am blessed to have the time with our Warming Center closed to listen and direct clients to services within our organization and the community.
Just this past week, I have gotten to know a client that has frequented our building numerous times always concerned about everyone around her. I don’t believe she ever came here asking for anything for herself. A simple conversation and a purely simple question of “What can I do for you?” led me to a sad realization that this lady was in need of many things but never inquired. Since the initial conversation, there have been many more and we are now meeting this lady’s needs; she has shoes that fit her, she has more than the one outfit that she continued to wear, and she is being matched up with other resources in the community.
I am grateful for the God given talent of striking up a conversation. I am grateful for the time Catholic Charities allows me and all the services and connections we have made in the community to assist clients. God Bless the work we do here, but God Bless our clients even more. They need us and we are here to serve!
Wausau Warming Center Coordinator
Some of my favorite calls lately have been search calls from Adult Adoptees. It is always very interesting when someone makes their very first phone call in the search for their birth family. The voice on the other end of the call is often filled with fear, but I can hear the excitement and wonder they have with the many questions they ask. Most are starting the search for answers such as, “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” But “why” is often one of the biggest questions they need answered. These calls for me are very reconfirming that what we do here at Catholic Charities Post Adoption Resource Center for new family education is twice as important. I love that we talk to our families about identity, being open with their children, sharing their own stories and giving them all the information they have to answer those questions.
Many of the Adult Adoptees who call us have not been told very much information about their adoption. Sometimes their adoption may have taken place over 50 years ago. I think it’s important to prepare families about what our children may feel and ask, and let them know how important it is to share what they know about adoption with them. If parents are able to answer these questions from a young age, we will have Adult Adoptees that won’t have to wonder about these questions throughout their lives. Openness creates trust!
Post Adoption Resource Specialist