After years of work, new homes for homeless Dells families are a reality.
The Stepping Stone apartment buildings held its ribbon cutting ceremony Friday. Two houses on the property are also completed. Four families have already moved in to the ten-unit apartments.
“This is truly a great day for the city and community of Wisconsin Dells,” said Wisconsin Dells Mayor Brian Landers.
Landers, who hosted the ribbon the ceremony, told the story of his family having no work and no place to live when he was a child in Chicago in 1982. His aunt and her husband took the family in and he’s now an example of someone who didn’t have a place to live who was able to go on and do good work, he said.
Terry Slack, school district administrator, was praised by Landers for his role in the project. Slack was the only candidate for the district administrator position who knew about the Dells homeless number when he came in for an interview, Landers said.
A story about a child trying to get his brother back into a wheel chair was told by Ed Sigmund, Saint Vincent de Paul Society Wisconsin Dells president. The child tried to get his brother back into his wheelchair after falling, but couldn’t do so himself. He kept trying to have cars stop, but with little success. Eventually the child threw a brick at a car. The owner stopped and after explanation, helped the child put his brother back in the wheel chair. God speaks to people about what they need to do, and hopefully people are taking care of the homeless situation before God has to throw a brick at them, Sigmund said.
Lisa Marks, State Division of Housing administrator, announced St. Vincent will receive the Wisconsin Collaborative of Supportive Housing Organizational Award for its work with Stepping Stone. The groups were congratulated by Marks for coming together, realizing the homeless situation and doing something about it.
Forward Community Investments provided about half the financing for the project. Carrie Vanderford-Sanders, Forward Community vice president of community lending, also congratulated everyone working on the project. She said she asked Sigmund how he felt after closing on the building and he said, “You know, it’s hard, but we have to do this.”
Kathy Kamp, Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development executive director, said she first heard about the project two years ago when a representative from FITS told her about the homeless problem in the Dells and wanting to build something. She praised St Vincent for stepping up and taking a leadership role and also congratulated everyone who took part.
“Thank you for the privilege of working with people who so greatly believe in what they doing,” Kamp said.
Suzanne Hoppe, Renewal Unlimited executive director, said work started on the project three years ago when Landers started a committee to have affordable housing in the Dells. The state contributed a $500,000 grant, and St. Vincent agreed to be financially responsible for the project, she said. Renewal will be the property manager for the property and will work with residents to help them achieve their goals in life.
Mary Larson, Beacon House president, said the organization is proud to be able to provide mentors and classes for families to improve their life. Beacon House still needs volunteers for the project. Interested parties can mail Larson at 936 East Hiawatha Dr. Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965.
“Stepping Stone for us, this is a dream come true,” Larson said.
She also praised the ever humble Chris Fearing for bringing St. Vincent in and tireless work on the project. Landers was able to have Fearing come up front, but she didn’t want to comment or take any of the praise.
State Rep. Joan Ballweg was on hand to congratulate everyone for the work put into the project. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin sent a letter doing the same.
People interested in living at Stepping Stone can still apply, said John Schoenherr, chairman of the Stepping Stone committee. To be accepted applicants must meet state income guidelines, be residents of the Wisconsin Dells school district and have children in the school system or who are about to join the school system. Applicants must also be willing to participate in programming to help them achieve an independent state.
Those interested in applying can contact Renewal Unlimited at 608-742-8482 and pick option two.
The building is built, but money is still needed to pay for the project. Financial donations, along with furniture, towels, linens or any other items a family needs can be donated to St. Vincent de Paul.