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“Ruth House is about creating someplace safe for women to carry on in their recovery journey.”

– Melanie Hamel, Housing Director

In just 90 days, Ruth House changes women’s lives.

Ruth House is an emergency homeless shelter that can accommodate up to eight women at a time. The shelter is available for women in the La Crosse community that are working to maintain a sober lifestyle and have no other housing options. 

Funding for Ruth House allows women to stay a maximum of 90 days if they maintain sobriety and comply with house guidelines. Ruth House typically serves women in their upper 30s, but the program welcomes women of all ages.

Walking through the front door of Ruth House you can’t help but notice that it is not a typical shelter.

The walls and shelves are adorned with canvases, murals, and other art projects that the women who have lived there over the years have made. The backyard contains a raised flower bed for growing vegetables in the summer, and the house’s new flooring and second bath give the house a fresh appearance while maintaining the historical integrity of the home. 

Although a variety of circumstances bring a woman to the steps of Ruth House, women who stay at Ruth House are frequently involved in intensive outpatient or therapy groups to help them through recovery. Additionally, many women who battle addiction have experienced trauma or have a family history of addiction.

In Wisconsin, Ruth House is one of few gender-specific emergency homeless shelters equipped to serve women in recovery. Melanie Hamel, the Housing Director at YWCA, explained that gender-specific shelters are crucial to feelings of safety and security for women who have experienced abuse.

 Additionally, women are more likely than men to return to unhealthy behaviors in programs that house men and women. Gender-specific shelters allow women to escape unhealthy relationships and build independence and personal goals. Since housing insecurity impacts an individual’s recovery process, it is essential that gender-specific emergency shelters also provide a sober living environment.

Three case managers oversee the Ruth House guests and work with them on maintaining sobriety, increasing income, obtaining public benefits, securing housing, and taking steps towards achieving self-sufficiency.   

Leaving Ruth House can be challenging for participants. For some women, Ruth House was the first place they lived that they felt secure and experienced true community. The friendships, comfortable atmosphere, and support all make it difficult to leave a place they have come to view as home. 

 Goal development and successful sober living prepares women who go through Ruth House for the next stage in their life, yet the goodbyes at Ruth House are not always permanent.

Although everyone is not successful the first time they go through Ruth House, former successful Ruth House participants have returned to volunteer and work in the program after securing permanent housing, and some participants keep in contact with their case managers to provide updates on their goals.

Ruth House is a designated emergency shelter offering homeless women a sober living home environment with on-site, intensive case management services. Ruth House is run by YWCA of La Crosse. For more information, visit their website.