Sun Prairie shelter aims to help homeless single mothers and their children

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) -- A shelter in Sun Prairie is working to help homeless single mothers and their children have a safe place to stay as they work towards finding a home of their own.

On Sunday evening, Shelter from the Storm Ministries hosted Hearts for the Homeless, a fundraising event to benefit the shelter.

Detta Calhoun, the interim executive director for the shelter and a case manager, said that the shelter's policy is to give "hands up" rather than "hands out."

"Our purpose is to house women and children, homeless women and children who don't have a place to go," she said. "We're not an emergency shelter, we're more of a transitional shelter."

Calhoun said that on average mothers and their children stay for three to six months at the shelter, with a limit of one year. At the shelter, they can utilize financial planners, case managers, and other resources such as cooking classes in order to create a plan to succeed when they leave the shelter.

"We want to build them up and help them with budgeting, we want to help them with - sometimes it may be mental health, doctors visits, sometimes it's trying to find a job, trying to get their credit improved," Calhoun said.

Calhoun and Amy Davidson, the house manager for the shelter, said that a series of negative events can cause someone to fall off track.

“We found that there’s so many that it’s just sort of a series of bad, unlucky, unfortunate events," said Davidson. "They’ve got children and somebody gets sick and then they lose their job because they’re not there enough, and then the car breaks down, it’s just a snowball effect. As you can imagine a single parent, it’s expensive, and Sun Prairie is a very expensive place to live.”

Sarah is a Sun Prairie woman who spent ten months in the shelter with her children after her circumstances changed and she found herself homeless. Sarah's name has been changed to protect her identity, as she works in the Sun Prairie community and has children in the school district.

"Here I am a professional, and I work within the Sun Prairie community, and I couldn't find a place to live," said Sarah.

"It can happen to anybody, and we just need to realize that, and I'm grateful that there is a community that cares and sees that as a need," Sarah said. "That's kind of why I'm here today, because I feel like one of the other reasons I was brought here is to grow and now share my experience and let everybody know that there are still kind people in the world, and it's nothing to be embarrassed about."

Davidson said that in 2010 when the organization was started, there were 87 homeless children registered in Sun Prairie. She said that number has increased.

"So many of the women here sleep couch to couch from family member to family member, friend to friend, just trying to find a place to stay," said Calhoun. "We've had so many come in and say we've been sleeping in our car."

With help from the shelter, Sarah is now living in an apartment with her children.

"I'm actually in an apartment, the fun thing is it's the same complex where I lived when I was seven, so it's full circle," she said.