Baraboo homeless shelter board forms

November 30, 2018

Baraboo volunteers working to establish a homeless shelter are still negotiating a facility lease, but in the meantime they’ve taken significant steps toward establishing a nonprofit organization.

Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter has incorporated itself, established a bank account and created a nine-member board of directors. It also has filed papers to become an official nonprofit.

“We’ve had a lot of progress,” said the Rev. David Mowers, the board president.

Pastors, government leaders and volunteers began meeting several months ago to decide how the community might compensate for the loss of Matt and Rachelle Fearson, who operated a warming shelter at their South Parkway church for 15 years. They’re moving to Arizona and have put their home and church up for sale. Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter’s board hopes to rent the church on a month-to-month basis until it sells. The group wants to open soon, as cold winter weather is setting in.

“We don’t want to hold them up at all,” Mowers said. “Our focus is getting in there, but we’re also trying to keep our minds three moves ahead.”

Local teacher Jori Ruff was elected the board’s vice president and secretary. Financial adviser Brent Brinker was elected treasurer. Mowers noted the board includes members who have helped run shelters, and some who have been homeless themselves.

“They’ve been excellent at getting a lot of work done,” he said.

The board has set a $30,000 budget for this winter. So far $11,000 in donations and pledges have come in.

The group hopes to rent the Hope Through Christ Ministries building for the winter, then decide whether it would make a suitable long-term home — if it isn’t sold to another party. The group can’t yet afford the church’s $219,000 list price, and is considering other options. Boosters hope to operate a homeless shelter year-round, whereas Hope Through Christ offered a warming shelter in winter.

“We are looking for a longer-term home,” Mowers said.

Running a shelter will require labor, as well as money. Volunteers will be needed to cover three shifts each night, checking people in and supervising them, even overnight.

“We suspect those roles may be difficult to fill,” Mowers said. “A lot of people can give a little.”

A meal program will be established, with churches and other groups asked to serve dinners and breakfasts for 20 people on a rotating basis.

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