Mary Petri and Stacy Reichhoff — two residents of the Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter — are grateful for the shelter's efforts in helping them and other clients.

And thanks to a $50,000 donation Tuesday from SSM Health, the shelter, which is also known as Pathway Home, will be able to help more people in need. ln addition to the monetary gift, SSM Health, which owns St. Clare Hospital, provides health care and other resources at Sauk County's only shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

During a short morning gathering, Reichhoff explained how she moved into the shelter after losing her home in Beloit. She moved to Portage to be closer to her children, but said her "housing fell through."

"I was offered the job and I took it," said Reichhoff, who works as the house manager of the shelter. "I absolutely love the task of helping other people and trying to help them get back on their feet."

In October, Reichhoff said she left for a short time to move in with her partner, who passed away in January due to heart failure. She said she moved back to the shelter and her position.

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"I really consider everybody here my family and really, really deep friends," Reichhoff said. "I also suffer from Parkinson's disease, so they make everything really easy and try and help me whenever I need it."

Each client has 90 days to live at the shelter, according to Reichhoff. She said the clients each have various upkeep responsibilities.

The Rev. Dave Mowers, the president of the board of directors of the Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter, said the partnership with SSM Health makes sense. The gift will equate to roughly one third of the shelter's 2022 operating budget, Mowers said, and will help with purchasing the building the shelter currently leases.

Mowers and Faust

Mowers (left) and Faust (right) hold the SSM Health donation check to the Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter.

Mowers added that owning the facility will allow current spending on rent to instead be used to help clients.

"We care for the holistic needs of our patients, our clients that is," said Mowers. "The medical needs that people have here are really pretty staggering. What we're finding is that we're an important cog in how health care works for the people that we serve. It's really great that we've got these two community institutions collaborating and working together for the good of folks who are really vulnerable and need additional help."

Petri, a mother of five, said that staff and management at Pathway Home genuinely care about what residents go through in helping them rebound. She moved in when she was eight months pregnant with her fifth child.

"I lost my job and had been the only one working," said Petri, holding back tears. "My husband had to stay at home with the kids. We fell behind on bills and tried getting assistance, but our landlord wouldn't accept it."

Petri said she and her family were evicted from their former residence on Christmas Eve last year. She said that members of the shelter helped get her children enrolled in school and Head Start, which is an early childhood program for low-income families. In addition, she lauded the shelter for its judicious selection of residents to maintain safety.

"If it wasn't for them, our baby wouldn't have everything he needs and I am so thankful they put a roof over our head while I recover from a difficult and traumatic pregnancy and the loss of our home," Petri said.

Nicole Faust, the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation coordinator with SSM Health, said that $30,000 of the donation will go to purchasing the shelter and $10,000 will be used as supplemental rent grants for current clients of the facility. The final $10,000 will help support the staff at the shelter in continuing their education and helping with clients.

"When we had come up with a plan of how we can help the Baraboo (Area) Homeless Shelter, I contacted Father Dave and he proposed to me a proposal he wrote up in dividing up where this money is going to go, how it is going to influence the community and so forth," Faust said.

SSM Health Community Health Manager Nikeya Bramlett, who took over her position from Faust six weeks prior to the event, said she has learned "a ton from Nicole" about the partnership and the shelter's community contributions.

"I think it's awesome," Bramlett said. "I am here to support. Anything in the future that we can partner on, I'd be willing to do. Any way that we can continue to support this shelter, I think it would be an awesome opportunity for both SSM and them."

The Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter has been in operation since January 2021.

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