Franciscan Hospitality House was created as a collaborative effort of the Franciscan Sisters and Catholic Charities. The Franciscan House offers a space for individuals experiencing homelessness to go during the day, especially in Wisconsin’s harsh winters. It’s a space is for adults to get out of the cold and have their basic needs met. Guests can access a shower, laundry, and refreshments,or use the phone or internet. They can also get assistance with job or housing referrals.

The Hunger Task Force provides food for guests visiting the Hospitality House, while community donations of clothing, bedding, or hygiene items help alleviate other basic needs.

The Franciscan Hospitality House serves, about 75 people per day. Of the 75 people, one-third are women. However, staff noticed that women’s needs were often not being fully met by the items they had on hand.

To shrink the gap in services offered for women experiencing homelessness, Franciscan Hospitality House created care packages for homeless women. Expanding the definition of “basic necessities” is vital to offer truly necessary products for women.

Sue Graf, director of programming for the Hospitality House, and other staff strive to build relationships with everyone that walks through the door. These relationships help them truly understand and meet the needs of guests they serve. 

The care packages can include leggings, sports bras, underwear, menstrual products, hair ties, brushes, and basic cosmetics. Many of the care package items are selected for their utility. Leggings, for example, can be used to help keep warm as a base layer on cold nights or they can be worn under a longer top for a job interview. 

Sue Graf said that many of the guests visiting the Hospitality House are looking for work and desire the necessary tools to look and feel presentable and qualified as they go through the interview process. Allowing women access to the basics, including clean underwear and a warm shower, changes how they see themselves. They begin to believe they are capable of more, and it makes a difference as they prepare for interviews. 

“It is amazing when you show someone you believe in them. When someone knows that somebody else believes in them, they will rise to the expectations as they move forward,” Graf said.

The House gives people a chance. Everybody deserves to look and feel good about themselves.

Over 50 women have been served through the care packages.

Care packages for homeless women is a program created by the Franciscan Hospitality House. To find out more about the House click here.