In June, the Community Warming Center Committee and the Merrill Area United Way officially closed the Community Warming Center located at 301 W. Main St. in the former auto drive-through building of the old Lincoln County Bank. The center was operational five months each winter for the past two years.
The Warming Center Committee has spent time searching for an appropriate, suitable, feasible site for another facility. To date no such site has been found.
“As a community we need to continue to address the future needs of our homeless population,” said Dee Olsen, Merrill Area United Way director.
Three groups, the Lincoln County Homelessness Task Force, the Warming Center Committee and the Merrill Area United Board of Directors, joined efforts on Sept. 21, with the guidance of Art Lersch, UW Extension Community Development Educator, to work through developing a longer range plan.
“It is the recommendation of the Community Warming Center Committee that we not establish a facility for the upcoming winter season, but rather work directly with St. Vincent De Paul in meeting legitimate, identified needs as we would during the off-season times,” Olsen said. “This may be assisting to help someone secure an apartment, or perhaps having them temporarily stay in another facility until other alternatives can be looked at. It will be important for community resources to make homeless referrals to one of the two off-hour St. Vincent phone numbers; 715-921-2980 or 715-212-1190.
During the two seasons, the center has served 24 people.
“Uncertain at the start, we didn’t know if we would have anyone use it,” Olsen said. “But, we now know there is a need that is being met. Every effort will be made to determine the best means to move forward and help those that are in difficult situations.”
For further information contact the Merrill Area United Way office, 715-536-2016 or email@example.com. Note: the Merrill Area United Way office is only part-time, but we will respond as soon as possible. Financial support can always be mailed to Merrill Area United Way, Community Warming Center Fund, P. O. Box 813, Merrill, WI 54452.