By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD – While discussions continue regarding a possible changeover or conversion of Marshfield’s transitional shelter, the facilities closed Dec. 5, while all but one family has found alternative housing.
Nine organizations gathered at Marshfield’s city hall Dec. 4 to discuss interest in the facilities, the future of the shelter and those needing the facilities, and action moving forward.
Present at the meeting were representatives from the Marshfield Area United Way, Marshfield’s Personal Development Center (PDC), Marshfield Area Community Foundation, Compassion in Action, Mary’s Place, the Wisconsin Rapids Family Center, the city of Marshfield, Wood County, and the Marshfield Police Department.
Representatives from PDC stated that they were interested in using the facility as a shelter for victims of domestic abuse and would consider moving all of their services to the facility; however, only those individuals and families that are victims of domestic abuse would be accommodated.
A representative from Mary’s Place said that their facilities would take in singles and couples that were in need of a place to stay, but could not serve families.
Compassion in Action representatives, Cathie and Tom Shilts, were present, but stated that they wanted to assist another organization in maintaining a transitional shelter and would “support whoever takes over.” If they came in to run the shelter they would be “at square one.”
PDC, Mary’s Place, and Compassion in Action each met with the St. Vincent de Paul Board of Directors, who administers to the transitional shelter, the following evening to discuss their organizations desires for the shelter.
While the city is not involved with the operations of the shelter, Marshfield Mayor Chris Meyer said that he was optimistic that one of these three organizations or another group would come in to take over administration of the facility, but it might take some time.
“I am optimistic that we will be able to get a group positioned properly to operate that facility and operate it in a way it will be successful, but I don’t know when that is going to happen,” he said. “I don’t think that it is going to happen in the next week or two; I think that it is going to be several months, unfortunately. But, again, the goal here is to fix the problem with a permanent solution, not put a band-aid solution in place that doesn’t correct the deficiencies that we’ve had in that facility.”
In a statement released Friday by the St. Vincent DePaul Board of Directors, the board stated that “The decision to close the Marshfield Family Shelter and disband the Shelter Board was done so after dealing with a long string of issues that stemmed back for quite some time. Lacking experience in running a shelter – especially of this size and nature – we the board did not anticipate the extent of various social issues that the shelter and staff would face in assisting the homeless population—things like drug addiction, mental illness, crime, and abuse. “
Marshfield Police are investigating a report of sexual assault at the former shelter after a prior resident stated that she witnessed a juvenile male resident assaulting a toddler while she was babysitting a young girl in October.
The incident is still under investigation.
The St. Vincent board said that it is their goal to have the facilities open again as a shelter.