Volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints help unload a truck filled with furniture at Clare Hall. (Submitted photo)
Thanks to an impressive interfaith and interagency effort, the residents of Clare Hall on the campus of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary got a special delivery on the morning of Wednesday, April 7 — a truck filled with $50,000 worth of furniture to lend dignity and comfort to both their current and future housing.
The furniture was a gift of Latter-day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Delivered straight from Salt Lake City, Utah, the shipment contained brand-new, unassembled night stands, kitchen tables, chairs, bedding and more.
The furnishings will adorn 40 dormitories at Clare Hall and will also be used to stock an on-site furniture bank for individuals who are moving from Clare Hall to permanent housing — the first furniture bank of its kind in the Milwaukee area.
Since spring of 2020, Clare Hall has been used as a residence for the homeless during the pandemic. Many residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and needed a place to receive medical treatment and to recover after being discharged from the hospital, while others were simply vulnerable individuals who needed safe housing during the health crisis.
Clare Hall was built in 1955 and was used by the seminary as a residence hall that also included classroom space and a chapel. From 1989 until 2019, it was used as a retirement home by the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. It was left empty after the sisters moved to the newly constructed convent in St. Francis and when the pandemic hit, the seminary entered into a lease agreement with the city of Milwaukee to provide refuge for the homeless afflicted by COVID-19.
The vision is for residents to be able to transition into permanent housing after they leave Clare Hall, said Lydia LoCoco, director of community relations for the office of Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki.
Now, thanks to the Latter-day Saints, they can do so equipped with furniture to make their new life comfortable.
“If you’re a homeless person with COVID, you can come into Clare Hall, you get better, they find you permanent housing and you can pick furniture to take with you,” said LoCoco, who called the Clare Hall project “a real model of collaboration between government and religious nonprofit.”
The donation came about from an existing relationship between the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Brett Seamons, regional communication director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We like to stay connected with other faiths, so we invited Archbishop Listecki to meet with one of our regional leaders, Elder Thomas Priday, over a Zoom call in January,” said Seamons. “We talked about COVID and how we’re handling things, and one of the topics that came up was the project at Clare Hall and what they’re doing. Elder Priday said, ‘What are some of the needs?’”
Seamons toured the facility with LoCoco and James Mathy, housing administrator for Milwaukee County’s Department of Health and Human Services, and “we really figured out one of the main imminent needs was furniture,” he said. Church authorities were quick to approve the idea, Seamons said, because the collaboration would not only have a direct impact on the local community, but would “strengthen the partnership that we can have with other local organizations, both faith-based and civic.”
Latter-day Saint Charities sponsors relief and development projects in 195 countries and territories. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has had a presence in Wisconsin since 1841, and there are over 22,000 members in 67 congregations throughout the state, said Seamons.
“During his mortal ministry, Jesus Christ fed the hungry and clothed the naked. He provided hope to mankind. We are grateful for his example as we contribute to the Milwaukee community,” said Elder Priday.
“The Catholic Church is always looking to join with others in serving the needs in our community,” said Archbishop Listecki. “This is another way the Church defends life and lives out its Gospel call to love one another. We welcome working with Latter-day Saint Charities in this corporal work of mercy to the benefit of those most in need.”