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Green Bay city leaders discuss operation of downtown homeless shelter

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GREEN BAY, WI (WTAQ) - At a special meeting of the Green Bay Protection and Welfare Committee Monday night, city leaders and officials from St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter aired out issues regarding operation of the shelter.

The shelter's executive director Alexia Wood say it's not out of the ordinary for the shelter to present it's operational and overflow plan to the committee, since it has to do so 4 times a year. But Wood called this meeting one week early out of the ordinary and the fact that it's listed as the only agenda item.

Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt last week raised concerns that the St. John homeless shelter was operating over-capacity, which is currently 64 beds. Also at issue, is the more than 30 police calls to the shelter since it opened in November.

"It's not working as well as it should – in my opinion," said Schmitt.

The St. John's homeless shelter provides temporary overnight emergency shelter for adults from November through April, from 5 p.m. until 9 a.m.

"The other shelters are full,” said SJEHS corporation president and Green Bay Diocese Deacon Timothy Reilly. “So people don't have a place to go, they're going to come to St. John's.”

"I work for the police, I work for the downtown neighbors, I work for the homeless people and I think we need to have a discussion,” said Schmitt. "They give them a nice dinner and a great facility and they kick them out at 9 in the morning. Freezing cold, no place to go,” said Schmitt. “And I think that's un-Christian."

Captain Jim Runge – who is in charge of the downtown district – tells FOX 11 many of those calls for service come from the shelter itself regarding the discovery of outstanding warrants for potential guests during the intake process.

He says there have been very few calls to the shelter for disturbances and the shelter has been active in limiting those calls during its operating hours.

Hours after a special meeting, the committee says the shelter is not in violation of its Conditional Use Permit (CUP).

But some who live in the community are none-to-pleased at how the Catholic shelter has grown in their back yard.

After hearing nearly four hours of concerns and ideas for possible solutions, the three city aldermen who make up the Protection and Welfare Committee decided the shelter was not violating its CUP.

"We just thought that there was some knee jerk reactions out in the community,” said PWC Chairman and District 10 Alderman Mark Steuer. “And it's very difficult to say, well, we're going to make a knee-jerk decision on it."

The committee did motion to create a sub-committee to look into the concerns the public has when it comes to homelessness in the downtown area. Steuer says that could open the possibility of re-starting the task force on homelessness. The motion must be approved by the city council.

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