The Day by Day Warming Shelter in Oshkosh is the first stop for relief in the homelessness journey. When the overnight season starts in mid-October, guests being arriving by 6 pm in the hopes of securing one of only 25 available beds for the night. A hot meal, a warm shower, a bed, and an opportunity to have their clothing laundered await them. Those are the things one can see upon entering the shelter. What is not first apparent to the eye, however, is the kindness, the compassion, and counseling. Day by Day is an emergency shelter, turning away no one based upon their history or personal struggles. The staff and volunteers work to help everyone who enters their doors.
The shelter is a little different from its origins as now, it is a full year shelter with the programs and services offered most weekdays. During the months the shelter is open for overnight stay, (mid-October to mid-April) the staff is increased, with some doing street outreach to find and serve the people who have not come into shelter. The ultimate goal of the programs offered is to move the guests to self-sufficiency. One incentive for guests is the Bed Save, if they are employed and can’t get to the shelter until late in the evening. Upon verification of employment, a warm bed and hot meal away them regardless of when they arrive.
Since taking on the role as Executive Director, Molly Yatso-Butz has instituted a number of programs with the aim of moving guests to self-sufficiency and independence. A graphic; Gateways to Goals, greets guests as they line up to register for the evening. The programs gives guests propose and sets benchmarks for them. It serves as a reminder that they are on a journey and the shelter is not intended to be a permanent residence. A dog therapy training program has also been initiated at the shelter. Dogs who are in training, and their handlers spend time with guests giving them another living connection, one that is nonjudgmental, and whose purpose is to make the guests feel better. In turn, when the dog achieves their certification, the guest feels a sense of satisfaction that they were part of the process. A Donor Advised Fund Holder at the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation recently stepped forward to help purchase a therapy dog and support of it during its lifespan. The dog would be a permanent resident of the Day by Day Shelter and be a constant support presence for the guests.
What Butz has learned in her first year as the Executive Director is that most of their guests don’t choose to be homeless. Typically, it starts as singular event and then cascades into a more routine situation they feel trapped in. She notes, “Our guests are no different from most people, they want a sense of purpose, belonging, community, engagement and giving back. I have been amazed at their desire to give back and help us at the shelter. But, I think the challenges they face are larger and harder to get themselves out of. I think a full-time shelter will break down a lot of those barriers and help our guests get back on their feet.”
During a recent conversation with a guest who was very upset, she observed that he wouldn’t make eye contact with her, or take his cap off which was shielding his eyes. Once she had him calmed down, she turn the conversation around and asked for his advice regarding a project that was working on. His behavior changed, and he took off his cap and began to look at her. She says, “He just needed engagement, and purpose. Our entire team works to give that to our guests.”
The Day by Day Warming Shelter along with your help and that of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation is working to end homelessness in the community.