Shelter for New London’s homeless
By Scott Bellile
A New London couple is leading a community effort to put a roof over the city’s homeless families in 2016.
The Mission of Hope House, 520 N. Shawano St., will house about 20 homeless people with priority given to families.
Co-founder Lori Prahl said she realized the need for housing in New London through several years of coordinating annual Mission of Hope outreach events. The one-day events provide groceries, haircuts, family portraits and more to the needy in New London, Clintonville and Waupaca.
Homelessness across all ages is a difficult figure to compile, but statistics provided by the School District of New London indicate the district had 33 homeless students during the 2014-15 school year. The district averaged 31 homeless students per academic year between fall 2012 and spring 2015.
“Once you see a need and you know the need, you’re called to respond to that need,” said Prahl, who started the Mission of Hope House with husband Tom. “You’re personally touched and impacted by what you know to be true, and to do nothing is [a bad choice].”
In her words, the shelter is a hand-up, not a handout, for people in “survival mode.” Mission of Hope will connect residents to the community resources needed to get them independent again, which they may not get by staying at hotels through voucher programs.
“We look at it as a place to nourish,” Prahl said.
Incoming residents will set goals and assess what prevents them from attaining employment and stability. An on-site classroom will host programs like resume workshops and give work space to young residents who attend school in town.
This year the Prahls bought the building from Henry Mohn, a family counselor who left the area and wanted the building to continue as a community service. It is in the process of being fixed and brought up to code.
Ripon construction worker Rick Erdmann visits New London to fix up the interior of the Mission of Hope House. Serving in Operation Desert Storm contributed toward his will to help others, including this cause.
“I’ve gone to Honduras to do God’s work, so New London is a short trip,” Erdmann said.
Northport architect Duane Grove drew the schematics. He said it was hard to design rooms in such a narrow structure, but the work was worth it to reuse a functional building. He likes the location as it is within walking distance of retail businesses and Pfeifer Park.
Grove and Prahl said the city has welcomed the project and they’ve heard no pushback from citizens. New London Police Chief Jeff Schlueter said while there are bound to be mixed feelings, no one has expressed concerns to him.
Before starting the project Grove didn’t realize a homeless population existed in New London.
“They blend in,” Gove said. “It’s not like you see somebody living under the bridge, the classic TV version of it. But they’re out there, and this is one step to get them permanently established, back on their feet.”
Donations and volunteerism have been pouring in, Prahl said. People willing to help with building remodeling, grant writing or providing donations can reach Prahl at 920-359-0705 or through www.missionofhopehouse.org.