Racine homeless shelter strained due to increase in residents

The Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization (HALO) facility in Racine has been running at over capacity for almost one year. 

Executive Director Gai Lorenzen said the homeless shelter, which also provides support services with the goal of transitioning its residents to independence, contains 120 beds. 

It was created to house up to 120 people — 60 on a side devoted to women/children/families and an additional 60 on the men’s side of the shelter. 

“We’ve been serving about 150 people a night,” Lorenzen said. 

She said the population at the shelter began to grow last June, when another shelter in Racine permanently closed its doors. 

Roughly one-third of the shelter’s $1.1 million annual operating budget can be traced to private donors. The remainder of the money is government funding. 

While donations have remained steady during the last year, Lorenzen said the expenses of accommodating the extra people have HALO operating roughly $25,000 in the hole each month. 

Ron Thomas, President of Continuum of Care of Racine County, said local churches have pledged to help raise additional money. 

“The Racine Interfaith Coalition has already stepped up and notified its congregations about the need,” Thomas said. 

Lorenzen said extra money should help, just like extra space would. 

But if the budget shortfall isn’t dealt with, HALO might have to cut some of the support services it provides. Caseworkers there currently help connect homeless people with substance abuse counseling, job training, and parenting classes. 

Lorenzen thinks the only feasible, long-term fix to the overcrowding is an increase in affordable housing in the Racine area. 

Lorenzen noted some of the people staying at the shelter, who are maintaining jobs, haven’t been able to find apartments to move into. 

“I think we as a community really need to be looking at affordable housing, and some of the prevention strategies that we can use to stop the flow of people coming into the shelter,” Lorenzen said. 

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