The Homeless Coalition of Fort Atkinson is working with city management to use the Municipal Building’s recreation center as an emergency homeless shelter.

With winter rapidly approaching, the coalition is working to find solutions to those affected by homelessness in the Fort Atkinson community.

“The weather is going to get bad soon,” coalition president Jude Hartwick said. “We’re working on using the rec center and municipal building as an emergency shelter and finding what upgrades it would need.

Hartwick said he’s working with the city building inspector, parks department, police department and fire department on ironing out the details.

The only issues brought up so far by the city representatives were making sure the building meets fire codes and it’s cleared out by the time parks and rec needs the space in the morning, according to Hartwick.

The proposed municipal building shelter would be used only when the temperature dips below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

The coalition also needs to figure out what it will use for bedding and how it will be cleaned and stored, Hartwick said.

To figure out all the details on management of the emergency shelter, the coalition established a committee to iron out the rules and regulations of the shelter, such as no alcohol or drugs and how intake will work.

Hartwick said he wants the emergency shelter up and running by Nov. 15.

Hartwick also stressed that this will be used only in emergencies.

“This is an emergency shelter so you’re out of the cold on those really horrible nights,” Hartwick said.

The emergency shelter also will be staffed by trained male and female volunteers to monitor the building overnight.

The Homeless Coalition also is working on a number of other projects as frigid temperatures start to become more of a reality.

The organization has officially filed its paperwork to become a 501©3 non-profit. This means people now can donate directly to the coalition to support its cause.

Hartwick said the group already has raised $8,500, which will be used to help families in need over the winter as well as start working toward the development of a permanent homeless shelter in Fort.

But members of the coalition want to make sure donations aren’t just going to one night in a hotel and nothing more.

“We have the money now,” Hartwick said. “But we need to find out how we’re spending it.”

Next steps include working toward finding a home to use as the permanent shelter, training for volunteers and establishing an internship program with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

At the coalition’s meeting Tuesday night, members of the Jefferson Kiwanis Club came to speak about what they’re doing to combat homelessness in the area.

“We need to work together to resolve this,” Kiwanis member Bennett Brantmeier said. “We need to work together to give people a help up. What more can both communities do?”

Donations to the Homeless Coalition of Fort Atkinson can be sent to P.O. Box 633, Fort Community Credit Union or the First Congregational United Church of Christ.

All checks should have Homeless Coalition of Fort Atkinson written on the memo line.

The next coalition meeting is set for Tuesday, Nov. 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, located on South Main Street in Fort Atkinson.

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