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Salvation Army shelter programs in need

The Salvation Army in Polk, St. Croix and Burnett counties recently notified the media of an imminent concern and the future of their shelter programs.

""Our housing programs are at risk," local Salvation Army Director Duana Bremer said. "Donations are down and demand is up."

The Salvation Army and their local shelter programs have been serving the homeless in Polk, St. Croix and Burnett counties for over 15 years. In that time, thousands of people have been served through shelter doors at Grace Place, Serenity Home and Faith House. Each shelter is unique in design and each serving a different population, yet all meeting the needs of those without a home. These shelters are not a typical homeless shelter that many may think — they are not just a warm place to stay with a meal. They are a chance for an individual or a family to get a hand up when they have fallen on hard times and become homeless. The shelters, across all three counties provide programs that encourage individuals to get healthy, seek employment and then permanent housing.

"Our program is based on the principles of Salvation Army founder William Booth: 'Soup, Soap and Salvation,' Bremer said. "We meet the physical needs first and then concentrate on lifting them up. Through education and encouragement, 82 percent of our residents will leave our program and go into permanent housing.

"We have been serving record numbers of people in need and quite simply, donations have not kept up with the demand for our services and our budget is at a serious shortfall."

Over the past three years, Grace Place Shelter in New Richmond underwent a major expansion project. Based on need, additional shelter space was sought, but the donations to keep operating and serving have not kept up with what the organization needs. In 2014, before their expansion, Grace Place served 169 individuals. In 2017, the organization has served over 354 individuals — more than doubling the amount served. While donations have increased, they have not increased enough to cover the demand for services.

With the increase in demand and a growing homeless population, the shelters are finding themselves in a significant deficit and are going to the public to ask for help with additional donations.

"Our shelters are staffed 24 hours a day, serving individuals in the most need," Bremer added. "We are here to provide shelter and encouragement to the homeless and the vulnerable; those who need our help the most. We know we live in a generous community and we are counting on folks to give so we can continue to serve."

The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign is currently underway and the goals are set high for those efforts. The dollars raised in those campaigns are used to help people in need of rent, heat or utility assistance locally. Some dollars trickle over to shelter expenses but they are not significant enough to make a big impact.

"We need to have a great kettle campaign and we need people to give to our shelters," Bremer said. "We know we are asking for a lot, but we also know our community and have seen the generosity before."