MILWAUKEE – A local parish youth group is equipping homeless people with tools to better their lives.p9repairersbreachMembers of St. Matthias Parish pose with representatives from Repairers of the Breach following their recent visit to the homeless shelter. The St. Matthias group raised $1,700 and donated 15 boxes of books for a Repairers of the Breach library. Pictured, front row left to right, are Taylor Naumann, Beckie Jaeckels, Jess Jaeckels, MacCanon Brown, Milton Thomas, Rebecca North and back row, Dan Desaulniers, Delaney Verba, Kari Krause and Josh Schubring. (Submitted photo courtesy Repairers of the Breach)

Several youth from St. Matthias Church on Milwaukee’s south side recently presented leaders at Repairers of the Breach with the fruits of an extensive fundraising effort that culminated in early November.

More than a dozen St. Matthias youth raised $1,700 on behalf of Repairers of the Breach, an interfaith-based organization that reaches out to homeless and marginalized people through employment, housing assistance and health care.

The youth also donated 15 boxes of books to the facility, which is in the midst of an extensive renovation effort at its near north side facility, 1335 W. Vliet St. The books will be placed in a library to help homeless people hone their literacy skills.

Steve Jaeckels, a St. Matthias parishioner, said the church and its youth group will continue to raise funds and resources on behalf of Repairers of the Breach.

The youth group’s efforts began in May, when 16 students slept overnight in boxes in a sanctioned environment to get a feel of what it would be like to be homeless and seek refuge on a nightly basis. Participants sought donations through the effort, known as Box City.

A few of the students engaged in the fundraising, along with parents and parish leaders, visited Repairers of the Breach in November and toured the facility.

Student Delaney Verba said her life will forever be changed after learning about the plight of the homeless and having an active role in raising funds and books toward the cause.

“All of this really makes me appreciate what I have,” Verba said.

Kari Krause, director of development and youth ministry at St. Matthias, said the exercise was not only a teachable moment for students, but also for adults overseeing the efforts.

“It’s amazing how this all came together; it’s been an incredible experience,” Krause said. “The Holy Spirit really moved through us.”

Chuck Butscher, a parent involved with planning and oversight, said the fundraising and support was a perfect tie-in to St. Matthias’ social justice efforts.

“We’re all on this planet together,” Butscher said, illustrating why he believes service is important.

Established in 1991, Repairers of the Breach is one of the city’s few organizations that offers services to the homeless during the daytime. Traditionally, most homeless shelters have a set time in the morning when people need to leave a facility.

“We fill a crucial gap in the city of Milwaukee,” executive director MacCanon Brown said. “We provide services that traditional shelters usually aren’t able to provide.”

The organization, which does not receive government funding, is fully reliant on private donations. On any given day, Repairers of the Breach opens its doors to 130 to 150 homeless adults, many between the ages of 30 and 50.

From the onset, Brown and other leaders had grander visions for Repairers of the Breach, including the library. In the past eight years, the organization has been in the midst of a robust fundraising campaign that will refurbish the three-story building. More than $2.2 million has been raised.

“This will help us to have even more resources as we work to meet people’s needs,” Brown said.

Rebecca North, a director at Repairers of the Breach, said she is excited to have the library up and running.

“The room itself is going to be very engaging,” she said.

For Brown, the impending additions to the facility and donations from groups such as the St. Matthias youth are an effort to chip away at some of Milwaukee’s startling statistics, including the reality that 60 percent of the city’s black male population is unemployed.

“It’s the highest in the nation, and it’s an atrocity. These are frightening numbers that point to people on the edge of survival,” Brown said. “In a small way, we want to make a small dent in that figure.”