Foundations for Living
Volunteers needed for sheltering Waupaca’s homeless
By Robert Cloud
The pandemic continues to hamper local efforts to provide shelter for homeless people.
Executive Director Wilma Akright said Foundations for Living has seen its volunteers drop from nearly 50 to nine due to health concerns associated with covid.
“Michael Hall (FFL’s associate director) and I pretty much lived here,” Akright said, regarding the staffing shortage due to older volunteers sheltering at home last year.
Each night, volunteers work one of two shifts.
The first shift is from 7-9:30 p.m., while the second shift is from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
A total of 120-124 shifts need to be filled each month.
She said volunteers not only help at the warming center, but in FFL’s office and thrift shop as well.
Increase in homelessness
Akright expects a surge in homelessness this winter.
“We are getting calls everyday for people who are homeless,” she said. “There are people living in their cars, living in tents, trying to find family or friends who will put them up temporarily.”
Akright said local residents do not realize the need for shelter in rural areas.
“We don’t see people begging on the street like they do in big cities, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have homeless,” Akright said.
In addition to the ongoing causes of homelessness, such as job loss, divorce or substance abuse, Akright attributes the developing surge to three factors.
First, the pandemic led to a moratorium on evictions in 2020 and most of 2021. That moratorium has expired and landlords are filing to evict tenants who are significantly behind in their rent.
Eviction filings have increased by 55% since the moratorium ended, according to an Oct. 1 report by Wisconsin Public Radio.
Akright also noted that there is less affordable housing available.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates a shortage of 119,000 units for low-income renters in Wisconsin.
A third contributing factor may be an influx of Afghan refugees being resettled into Wisconsin communities, Akright said.
Fort McCoy currently houses more than 12,000 Afghan refugees, many of whom may resettle in Wisconsin communities and further stress the current shortage of low-income housing.
“We just don’t know where all these people will go,” Akright said. “These are all issues that will make homelessness more difficult this year.”
Noting that Foundations for Living is a small facility, Akright said the shelter is licensed for just eight people at a time.
She said the organization has been unsuccessful in finding a safe, healthy, long-term solution to provide shelter for more people.
“In the past, we never needed to be licensed for more than eight, but it could be different this year,” Akright said.
She said churches in Oconomowoc County take turns providing supper and a place to sleep for one week.
Located at 1421 Churchill St. in Waupaca., Foundations for Living provides shelter from Nov. 1 to May 1.
The shelter is open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven days a week.
Akright said the organization’s goal is more than to keep people warm.
“Our ultimate goal is to help people move out of life-controlling issues,” she said.
The organization also helps those who need assistance with housing by providing information on area resources, financial counseling and education, as well as substance abuse support groups.
In addition to volunteers, Foundations for Living also seeks taxi vouchers to help its guests find jobs or go to the library.
Also needed are 10 sets of twin sheets, 10 twin-size mattress pads, 200 rolls of toilet paper, 1,500 masks, 200 reams of paper, 250 pairs of new, warm socks and 70 new, men’s sweat pants.
For more information, call 715-942-2725 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.