Upcoming Campaign Addresses Need, Community Resource Center

Upcoming Campaign Addresses Need, Community Resource Center

Three local organizations have been meeting to develop a plan to build a community resource center—a proposed $6 million capital campaign for a $5 million facility they say would be a game changer in providing much-needed services to Eau Claire’s unhoused population. 

“It became abundantly clear during Covid that we need to better address the needs of these individuals and their children…”

-Anna Cardarella, CEO/President of Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council.

Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council (WDEOC) has taken a leadership role in this project to secure a yet undetermined downtown location and build a center to provide efficiency in services to the unhoused and housing insecure in Eau Claire. Hope Gospel Mission is working with WDEOC to be the operator of a day resource center to provide shelter during the day and connect people more efficiently with needed services and assistance.  Along with these and other agencies, the City of Eau Claire is collaborating to make this effort successful, as well as the members of the Community Haven House.

The project would cost an estimated $6 million, with $1 million to help fund the first three years of operating costs. The building will contain WDEOC’s housing services, free, flexible space for providers serving the unhoused, and a day resource center run by Hope Gospel Mission.

Despite increased employment in Eau Claire and numerous efforts to assist the city’s unhoused residents, the number of people without homes of their own has continued to rise in recent years. According to data from Hope Gospel Mission, approximately 3,000 individuals and families experience homelessness in western Wisconsin, with 49 percent being children. 

“It became abundantly clear during Covid that we need to better address the needs of these individuals and their children,” said Anna Cardarella, CEO/President of Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council. “We believe this plan offers the innovation and collaboration needed to support a daytime center that will lessen the burden on other municipal facilities.”

The Day Resource Center would serve not only as a shelter but as a site where unhoused residents would be linked to needed services. WDEOC would own the building, and the agency’s housing services staff would be located in the new facility. The staff of other organizations that assist unhoused people would also be at the site, interacting directly with clients to link them to services.

WDEOC, the city of Eau Claire, Mayo Clinic Health System-Eau Claire, and a private donor have already committed $850,000 toward the proposed capital campaign if it proceeds. The city’s financial commitment will come from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

The day resource center began to take shape three years ago when Community Haven House Inc. Board President Susan Wolfgram convened a meeting with a local developer seeking to build a center. That plan was not feasible. The effort continued and subsequently gained support and input from the City of Eau Claire and Eau Claire County officials, nonprofits, local healthcare providers, business owners, and others.

Planning has begun for a Campaign Readiness Study to identify philanthropic interest and capacity, potential lead and major gifts, the area’s financial environment, volunteer leadership, and the importance community residents place on the facility to improve Eau Claire’s quality of life. Crescendo Fundraising Professionals, LLC, has been retained to conduct the feasibility study.

Billie Hufford, Project Management Coordinator for the City of Eau Claire’s Planning and Housing Department said, “We look forward to completing the study that will outline the capacity for a successful capital campaign to bring the project to life.” 

The public is invited to provide feedback via an online survey accessed through the WDEOC, Hope Gospel Mission, and City of Eau Claire websites that will be promoted from June 1 through mid-July. A Campaign Readiness Study Summit will be held on July 16 and 17. The involved partners’ Board of Directors, City Council, and volunteers on the Campaign Readiness Study Committee will receive the recommendations within a comprehensive report in mid-August.

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