'Moving quickly:' 1st referrals stay at former seminary building set up to protect homeless from COVID-19

ST. FRANCIS -- With the number of positive cases of the coronavirus growing by the day in Milwaukee County (663 as of Monday afternoon, March 30), officials have urged people to follow the guidelines of Governor Tony Evers' and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread. However, that request isn't easy if you don't have a safe place to stay. A former seminary building in St. Francis began using the homeless Monday night -- among the most vulnerable in our community.

"The goal here is to help people help themselves, and we know that, unfortunately, there are too many people in our community who are in unstable living conditions right now," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Jim Mathy

"It's moving quickly here, and we expect to take our first referrals -- one from a local shelter, one from a health care facility," said Jim Mathy, Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services housing administrator.

One wing of Clare Hall, which most recently served as a retirement home for Sisters of St. Francis Assisi, will be for those with COVID-19 symptoms; the other for the elderly or those with underlying conditions. National Guard medics and officials with the Milwaukee Health Department will staff the building 24 hours a day, with the county also providing housing navigation services for when people are discharged.

The solution, part of a partnership between the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee, was just one example of teamwork Mayor Barrett discussed Monday. He also signed on to Governor Evers' calls for more help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for personal protective equipment and supplies health care providers, police and fire departments urgently need.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

"Really facing two crises here, the economic crisis, which is really a result of the health care crisis, but we have to deal with both of them at the same time," said Mayor Barrett.

Mayor Barrett submitted the below letter to FEMA Monday, requesting supplies:

"Dear Administrator Gaynor:

I am writing to express confirmation and support of Governor Ever’s request to expedite the processing of resource requests for increased laboratory testing supplies as well as personal protective equipment (PPE). Specifically, PPE for first responders and health care workers.

I understand and appreciate the current emphasis on FEMA’s supply requests from the Strategic National Stockpile. Our first responders and health care workers are at the mercy of the current dwindling PPE inventory across the State of Wisconsin and especially locally in the Milwaukee area. We are imploring the review of the resource requests listed below for their swift execution:

#2655-112174 – Testing supplies for UW Hospital

#2655-112057 – Testing supplies for Children’s Hospital of WI

#2655-117664 – Medical PPE request from DHS

#2655-120523 – Consumable Medical Supplies for WI DCF

#2655-120507 – Non-Medical PPE for WI DCF

#2655-114967 – PPE for Law Enforcement and Fire Departments


N95 Respirators



Non-Surgical Masks



Face Shields



Surgical Gowns






Medical Gloves



Easy Mag extractor reagents

11,500 tests


Primers probes enzymes

11,500 tests


Hologic Panther Fusion reagents

459,500 tests

Plastic ware

Roche plasticware

108,000 tests


Tom Barrett


The mayor said he would be meeting with health system officials Tuesday to better coordinate needs, and noted identifying suitable locations for field hospitals is a reality on the horizon.