A building going up late next year will help a portion of the 1,100 homeless people in Milwaukee.

The Capuchin community, in partnership with Heartland Housing, a non-profit organization that is part of Chicago-based Heartland Alliance, is taking St. Anthony’s Hospital and turning it into 60 units of supportive housing for those who are homeless and living on the streets.

St. Anthony’s Hospital, 1004 N. 10th St., Milwaukee, was built by the Capuchins in 1930 as a place for African American doctors and nurses to practice, as well as care for the largely African American community. In 1980, the Capuchins gave the hospital to Milwaukee County, which returned it to the Capuchins a year ago.

Heartland Housing broke ground Oct. 30. The new apartment complex is anticipated to open in October 2018.

“We believe society is better for everyone who can participate, prosper and reach their full potential,” said Heartland Housing Executive Director Michael Goldberg. “Affordable housing is the foundation to these achievements. Heartland Housing is thrilled to be adding a fourth permanent housing development in Milwaukee as part of our efforts to support those who have struggled with homelessness in stabilizing their lives.”

Br. Rob Roemer, the ministry director of Capuchin Community Services, said that the apartments will service those homeless who are mentally challenged or have been in and out of the criminal system. Those people will be able to use the on-site property management and supportive services, including staffed case workers.

The Capuchins will also move some of their services to the new complex, Br. Rob said. The basement of St. Anthony’s Apartments will house showers, a laundry facility, a barber shop, a computer lab area, as well as clothing and other services. Br. Rob said this new place will allow the Capuchins to provide more services to people who need them, whereas their current space forces them to turn people away.

“The homeless tell us that their greatest need is a place to clean up and do their laundry,” Br. Rob said. “The places that they try to clean up or do their laundry, like at McDonald’s, will chase them away. They don’t have a space to keep themselves clean, give themselves dignity or do laundry.”

The new complex will also include a gathering space for 120 people that will allow its guests who depend on St. Ben’s meal service to wait inside. Guests will be able to travel from basement services right into the meal hall without going outside, Br. Rob said.
“The gathering space will get more people inside, will allow people to stay warm and dry rather than standing outside for a meal,” Br. Rob said.

The first floor of the new complex will house Columbia St. Mary’s St. Ben’s Clinic, which provides health care to homeless or those who are at risk of being homeless and not being seen by another health care provider.
The rest of the building, the next four floors, will be operated by Heartland Housing and will include 15 apartment units on each floor.

The Capuchins, said Br. Rob, are called like St. Francis of Assisi to care for those who are shunned in society, and many of those homeless who are in and out of jail or mentally ill are forgotten by society.

“It is our role as Capuchins, as Franciscans, to be able to help those in need,” he said.

“We are grateful to the support of the community out there,” he added. “This has been a dream of ours for six, seven years and the community has really stepped up and helped out. We could never do this by ourselves.”