Firehouse proposed for Waukesha homeless shelter site

A proposal in Waukesha could turn an old firehouse into a warm place to stay.

Leaders with the Housing Action Coalition of Waukesha County will present to the city's Plan Commission on Wednesday night, April 28 -- seeking to turn the structure into an overflow homeless shelter.

The proposal calls for the building, located on Sentry Drive, to be renovated and used as an emergency shelter during the winter.

"Homelessness doesn’t have a face. It can affect anyone at any given time," said Jackie Smith, Housing Action Coalition of Waukesha County executive director. "In the winter months, we find that our shelters are at full capacity and sometimes family composition plays a factor. If we have a larger family but a small room, sometimes it just doesn’t fit."

The proposed shelter could assist up to 180 homeless individuals on any given night, calling for 22 beds serving both men and women.

There are a few changes proposed to the firehouse's exterior, like the elimination of garage doors. What used to hold fire trucks would be a space for three family suites and a lounge.

The project is being supported by the shelter's potential neighbor -- the Food Pantry Serving Waukesha County.

"We are in a position that we can assist them with their meals," said Karen Tredwell, the pantry's executive director.

Tredwell said the pantry helps 6,000 people a month. Those who can't get there by car take the bus; a nearby bus stop would provide easy access to both pantry and shelter.

"We do serve people who do not have permanent housing. In some cases, we’ve had people who have camped here on our property," Tredwell said.

A warm place to stay and a good meal could soon be within reach for those who need it.

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