COVID closes Milwaukee shelter, bitter cold increases demand

COVID closes Milwaukee shelter, bitter cold increases demand

Street Angels Milwaukee has closed its thermal cover for the season citing COVID cases. Amid the bitter cold, Repairers of the Breach are working with the city to fill the void.

Warming shelters in the Milwaukee area prepared for an influx of people seeking refuge from the cold on Monday, January 10, but COVID cases have already resulted in a shelter being closed for the season.

With wind chills down to -20 degrees on Monday evening, the leaders of Repairers of the Breach said they expect a busy night in their warming shelter, but will protect guests from more than the cold in early 2022.

“It was a challenge, but it was well worth it,” said Reverend James West, Repairers of the Breach.

The Reverend West and Repairers of the Breach set up their warming hideaway Monday night for anyone in need of a warm place to sleep, even if a surge in COVID-19 cases is another challenge.

“It complicates things,” West said. “It lets you get creative and it makes us figure out how to do what we know needs to be done, but safely.”

The aim of its employees is to prevent the disease from spreading while helping as many people as possible. It’s a job made difficult by limited social distancing ability.

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“The space we used to hold 40 people is now reduced to 14,” said West.

And now there is one less option for the people.

Street Angels Milwaukee has closed its warming shelter at Ascension Lutheran Church for the season, citing a 20-30% increase in staff and guests who tested positive for COVID over the past week. Executives of the non-profit organization wrote on Facebook: “We have decided that it is not safe to continue operations even after capacity has been reduced. The risk for our unvaccinated guests is too high to suffer serious illnesses.”

At Repairers of the Breach, West said his team and other nonprofits are working with the city to fill the void and ensure the homeless can sleep in a safe and warm place.

“It is without a doubt a devastating blow and we will be affected by it,” said West. “We have to adjust to the fact that no man or woman will be left behind in the cold.”

Repairers of the Breach always needs supplies and donations to keep going.

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