All media inquiries should be directed to….
Craig Vincent/Executive Director
715-409-3506 Ext 13
Response to Public Discussion about Unhoused Population in Wausa
As Executive Director of Bridge Street Mission, I would like to add hopefully a balanced perspective to the public discussion about the unhoused population in Wausau. With a nightly census of up to 37 men, Bridge Street Mission’s Sober Living Center is currently the largest local provider of transitional housing for men experiencing homelessness and struggling with addiction. In addition, we operate a day time Outreach Center, where both men and women can get out of the elements during the day.
Although we were founded primarily to provide Christ-centered help to those in need in Marathon County, we have found that many of the men and women seeking services from us-and apparently other providers throughout the city-are from other communities. As a compassionate ministry, we are attempting to meet their human needs as well as those of local residents. It does not surprise us, nor should it surprise our local leaders, that a larger city would draw from other communities in the region. Just as Wausau draws regionally for shopping as well as cultural and recreational events, we should expect to draw regionally for humanitarian services. A larger city typically has a more comprehensive safety net for those in need than the smaller communities surrounding it.
All Wausau residents and visitors deserve to have pleasant experiences in the streets, parks and businesses downtown. This includes the unhoused population, but we should not give them permission to take over space, break the law or prevent others from using public areas. It is the responsibility of the Wausau Police Department to enforce the safety and proper use of these public spaces and it should not be considered harassment when they do so. On the other hand, if the community collectively is not providing alternatives, either directly through city services or indirectly through area non-profits, we should expect to struggle with these problems. Public bathrooms and trash receptables available to all citizens make sense as do year round shelters and other compassionate services.
One of the challenges is that in some cases, the unhoused do not want to access the services available to them. Many do not want the structure and accountability inherent in receiving these services. Others have been so traumatized that they fear the very people who are trying to help them. At times well-meaning people can do more harm than good by meeting temporary needs that allow the unhoused to simply survive without receiving the help they really need. The task of directing the unhoused population to the resources they desperately need and helping them to function successfully in society again is a long and difficult journey with many setbacks along the way.
We have found the police to be extremely diligent in connecting people to available resources, but if these services are refused and the individual instead elects to linger and reside in public areas, it complicates the job. In a few cases, these individuals have lost privileges at agencies through their behavior and continue to exhibit some of these same behaviors in public space. In these cases, they are not being criminalized, but are, in fact, exhibiting criminal behavior which requires intervention by law enforcement.
Trauma and mental health are indeed the major issues among those experiencing homelessness and addictions. This is why affordable housing, although absolutely necessary and in short supply, is not the solution. Even when we have adequate affordable housing, there will still be an unhoused population. Transformational programming which identifies root causes and equips individuals to function in society are critical.
Bridge Street Mission is committed to continue to provide Christ-centered transformational programming and stands ready to cooperate with local leaders, law enforcement and others in the community to address the needs of the unhoused in our community.
Craig Vincent/Executive Director/Bridge Street Mission
Outreach Center Expanded Hours
The Outreach Center, located at 115W. Bridge St., is a ministry of Bridge Street Mission. We have recently expanded our hours of operation to provide a daytime location for those experiencing homelessness to be instead of out in the cold or loitering in public indoor places.
The Outreach Center is open weekdays, Monday – Fridays from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, providing a warm location, food, fellowship, practical help and spiritual encouragement for those experiencing homelessness and hunger. A hot, sit-down lunch is served from 12:00 – 1:00 pm. The goal of this outreach is to build relationships, give practical help, share the Gospel and encourage clients to pursue transformation.
Every Thursday night from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Celebrate Recovery meets at the Outreach Center for those looking to overcome any kind of addiction.
Urban Street Project
What is the Urban Street Project?
The Urban Street Project provides both affordable housing and assistance to those in need. In an effort to raise $100,000 for the Bridge Street Mission’s sober living program, Central Wisconsin contractors and friends of the mission are working together to build and sell a home on Meadow Brook Way in Wausau. The lot and permits are in place, and we have started the excavation and foundation process! You can really see progress now as the set date just took place on Monday.
Who benefits from the efforts of the Urban Street Project?
All profits of the Urban Street Project will benefit Bridge Street Mission. Bridge Street Mission offers Christ-Centered solutions for those in need. We currently shelter about 30 men in our sober living facility. Through short term and extended stay programming, men in various stages of recovery are given the support and skills they need to live productive lives. In addition, we operate an outreach center where we do food together with the community, serving over 30,000 meals so far in 2020!
Who participates in the Urban Street Project? How can others help?
The Urban Street Project is truly a community wide effort. We have businesses of all sizes and volunteers of all backgrounds joining together to make this project a success. We are thrilled to announce that all of the primary construction phases are accounted for. We are currently accepting monetary donations toward the project at bridgestreetmission.org. Contact the Bridge Street Mission or Denyon Homes for more information.
What are your goals for the Urban Street Project? What is the timeline?
We hope to generate a profit of $100,000 to help reduce the cost of our sober living program. We want those in need to be able to access our programs and resources free of charge. Of course, we also hope this project brings awareness to both the needs in our community and the efforts of the Bridge Street Mission to meet those needs. We are proud to offer food, shelter, and Christ-Centered solutions to our community! We are anticipating that the Meadow Brook Way house will be completed, and available for purchase, in February of 2021.
What have you noticed while working on the Urban Street Project?
The Urban Street Project is a unique fundraiser that I have not seen anywhere else. It lines up perfectly with Wausau’s reputation for home manufacturing, It has overwhelming support from the community. Businesses and friends of Bridge Street Mission have really rallied their resources to contribute towards the Urban Street Project. We appreciate the generosity of the central Wisconsin community and would like to especially thank our platinum sponsors: Denyon Homes, Wausau Homes and JCE.
Sober Living Center
The Sober Living Center, located at 1140 W. Bridge St., is a ministry of Bridge Street Mission. The Sober Living Center is a Christian discipleship program that when fully implemented will include both short term (30 day) and long term (8 month or 2 year) options for men in various stages of need and/or recovery.
These programs are open to any man who is willing to fully participate in programming and abide by program policies. Men are selected from those who complete an application, are interviewed and sign the program agreement. There are nominal program fees associated with the program that can be paid via personal resources, 3rd party advocates or scholarships. Men must be 21 days sober before being accepted into the program and are routinely tested to maintain a healthy and safe environment.
Our Christ-centered programming provides the support, accountability and skills needed to live addiction free and establish stable and productive lives. Both the 8 month and 2 year programs are currently open. Future additions to programming include the opening of the 30 day program as well as employment readiness that includes both the soft skills and hard skills to maintain employment. Employment tracks being explored are welding, small engine repair, culinary arts and facility management.
Second Chance Thrift
Second Chance Thrift is a temporary outreach of Bridge Street Mission. Through the generosity of the Wausau community and the tremendous effort of a team of volunteers, Second Chance Thrift will be offering gently used clothing and other thrift items at very low prices to the general public at the Donation Center located at 750 Jackson St. in Wausau. All proceeds will go to support Bridge Street Mission.
Second Chance Thrift will be open on Thursdays and Fridays from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm and Saturdays from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm beginning on Thursday, October 16, 2020 and ending on Saturday, November 21, 2020.
This is an “all items must go” event and additional donations for thrift are not being accepted. Bridge Street Mission will continue accepting donations of food and other requested items in support of the Outreach Center and Sober Living Program. For more information visit www.bridgestreetmission.org.
Bridge Street Mission offers Christ-Centered Solutions for Central Wisconsin by serving and uplifting those in our community who struggle with homelessness, addictions, hunger and maintaining a stable life. Through doing “Food Together” at the Outreach Center located at 115 W. Bridge St., this year alone, over 30,000 meals have been served to those in need in the Wausau community. In addition, over 30 men are currently being housed in the Sober Living Centered located a 1140 W. Bridge St. This Christian discipleship program is assisting men in overcoming addictions and establishing stable and productive lives.
Moving forward, Bridge Street Mission will be evaluating the community need as well as existing offerings for thrift and may revisit a similar outreach as time and resources allow us to meet needs creatively and excellently in Central Wisconsin.
Those wanting to support Bridge Street Mission through purchases have an excellent opportunity to do so at Mission Grounds Espresso, located at 107 W. Bridge St. This drive through espresso house offers coffee, lattes, cappuccinos, bubble teas and smoothies. All proceeds go to support Bridge Street Mission.