Mission of Hope House now serving homeless
New London shelter nearly at capacity
By Scott Bellile
After five years of planning, fundraising and community collaboration, Waupaca County’s first resource homeless shelter is at last housing families in New London.
Located at 520 N. Shawano St., the 21-bed Mission of Hope House began offering 24/7 service to clients on Feb. 11.
According to shelter founder Lori Prahl, as of Tuesday, March 5, the MOHH had 17 people staying overnight. The shelter has served about as many people through other ways such as referring them to area resources.
Oftentimes people who call MOHH have been evicted or are one paycheck away from that possibility, yet Prahl can hear in their voices they are hesitant to ask for help.
“Obviously when they first call they’re very emotional,” Prahl said. “There’s a lot of tears, fear of the unknowns, but as you talk to these individuals, you are providing hope just by giving them information. Information is empowerment.”
After Prahl provides that information to callers in distress, she said they sometimes respond, “You’re the first person I’ve heard this from.”
Learning they are not alone is a relief and empowering to the people who seek help from MOHH, according to Jill Engel, the shelter’s recently hired care plan manager.
She said as a resource homeless shelter, MOHH’s priority is to prevent people from becoming homeless. It offers overnight stays as a last resort.
Engel may point people to services that can help them through debt, mental health issues or addiction, or help them find a relative or friend who can temporarily take them into their home.
Engel also assists her clients with setting measurable goals for themselves and practicing behaviors that can lead them to long-term success.
The New London native understands local residents’ hardships, having witnessed similar struggles working in and out of the state. Engel has been a social worker and case manager for foster families, juvenile delinquents and adults with mental illness.
She is a licensed attorney and has worked as a prosecutor. The bulk of her legal work was in Indian law.
“I always loved New London and saw this opportunity to learn more and work with more [people] in the community,” Engel said.
MOHH serves Waupaca County and surrounding rural communities.
Education is a major component in how the shelter serves its clients. MOHH offers classes on financial literacy and life skills as well as job training at MOHH’s The Bridge Thrift Store across the street.
MOHH does not view its services as “handouts” because they are aimed at getting the homeless back on their feet.
“I think the word is that it’s a ‘hand-up,’ and that I think is pretty powerful,” said Bill Bishop of the organization’s board of directors.
For people who are not in need of MOHH’s services but wish to give their time to helping the organization, the shelter still seeks volunteers to staff The Bridge Thrift Store and the shelter. Community organizations are needed to cook meals for overnight clients.
Prahl said MOHH can find work for all volunteers no matter where their interests lie, whether they be in fundraising, meal planning, mentoring, teaching or art.
Volunteer Carrie Besaw said she found a variety of tasks to do including working at The Bridge, supervising the shelter overnight and crocheting blankets.
“This is a cause that’s like so near and dear to my heart,” Besaw said. “I’m happy to help in any way I can.”
Jennifer Lamers-Sommer said she is donating her time to developing a curriculum so MOHH can teach clients how to garden.
“It’s hard to describe, but it’s one of those things where I grew up with the feeling that I’m here to show people love and I have gifts I can do that with, and that’s what I’m going to do,” Lamers-Sommer said. “Throughout my life I try and find the time to do that because it’s such a value, not just for the people I work with or help, but for me.”
For more information, stop in to the shelter, visit the MOHH website or call 920-249-4705.