JANESVILLE, Wisconsin—Mercyhealth’s House of Mercy Homeless Center is celebrating 25 years of serving the community. The House of Mercy, which provides short-term emergency shelter to single women and families, opened in Janesville in 1996. Since that time, more than 8,000 individuals, half of whom were children under the age of 5, have been given a safe, warm place to sleep, as well as financial assistance for housing, tenant education, transportation, child care and prescription co-pays, and more. A social worker helps residents develop an action plan for future success.
“In 1996 we opened our doors to homeless single women and families providing 30 days of emergency shelter. Sadly, homelessness remains a significant pain point and has become a public health crisis in the Stateline region,” said Tammie King-Johnson, Manager of the House of Mercy. “We never imagined that a lack of safe and affordable housing would spiral out of control contributing to hundreds of families becoming homeless each year. The pandemic has only intensified this, while challenging our staff and community not only to persevere, but to become more innovative in how we support those in jeopardy of becoming homeless and those who unfortunately already are.”
The House of Mercy offers a wide range of services including:
- Homeless prevention/diversion. The House of Mercy provides 60-day stays, as well as education and resources to help the individuals and households find safe, alternative housing immediately, rather than entering shelter or experiencing unsheltered homelessness. It’s intended to ensure that the homelessness experience is as brief as possible, to prevent unsheltered homelessness, and to avert stays in a homeless shelter.
- Education to build knowledge and skills. Residents work with staff, including a case manager and social worker, to create a better life for themselves. This includes:
- Employment and job training
- Landlord tenant relationships
- Alcohol and drug awareness
- Mental health issues
- Addressing legal issues
- Thrift store. Residents have access to free clothing at Mercyhealth’s Re•Tag•It Thrift Shop, which serves the community with high-quality donated goods, while generating a significant percentage of the House of Mercy’s annual funding.
- Food security and nutrition education. Most often, homeless individuals are preoccupied with where they’re going to sleep at night and whether they’ll eat at all than what food they’re putting in their bodies. Because of this, many people afflicted with homelessness struggle with malnutrition. They often eat what they can, which usually is not enough to fulfill their daily nutritional needs. While at the House of Mercy, they have access to healthy food, lessons on meal preparation and access to nutritionists and financial assistance to purchase healthy foods for special dietary needs.
- Access to medical services and prescription co-pays. Residents are given access to medical, nursing, chiropractic and dental care.
- Housing stability. Residents are given first month’s rent, security deposits and follow-up services to individuals and families who have experienced homelessness.
The financial support and volunteer support received by the House of Mercy helps make these services possible.
“Our residents and participants feel grateful and are encouraged knowing they have neighbors, churches and businesses standing beside them and supporting their journey,” said Tammie.
The House of Mercy Homeless Center, 320 Lincoln St., Janesville, is operated by Mercyhealth. It is one of the only health system-operated homeless centers in the nation. To learn more about the House of Mercy, call (608) 754-0045 or visit mercyhealthsystem.org/house-of-mercy.