By PrincessSafiya Byers

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.

Many know Hope House of Milwaukee as a shelter for families facing homelessness, but as the organization expands its reach, it is doing more.

The organization, located at 209 W. Orchard St., houses a walk-in clinic, a youth center for children and a GED program available to both residents and people in the surrounding area.

But helping combat homelessness remains a core mission.

The organization houses about 10 families and provides them with personal space, communal space and a shared kitchen where families take turns cooking dinner for one another.

In fact, families of all types and backgrounds have spent time at Hope House.

“We don’t define family, you define family,” said Jim Farrell, the development director for Hope House.

While in the shelter, families are provided necessities and wraparound services to help them stay on their feet and move forward.

The organization helps from 50 to 150 families at risk of homelessness find stable housing.

The organization’s rapid rehousing program, for example, provides families in imminent danger of homelessness with emergency assistance to get a roof over their heads, said Wendy Weckler, the executive director of Hope House.

“Ninety-five percent of the families get permanently housed through the program,” she said. “Eighty-five percent have never been homeless again.”Hope House has been serving families since 1987 but is continuing to extend its reach to serve more people.

Since Sept. 1, it has been managing the St. Catherine Residence, a building at 1032 E. Knapp St., that has provided women with stable, affordable housing for 125 years.

Mercy House Lakefront gifted the building to prevent it from closing and to carry on the mission of the Sisters of Mercy to provide a flexible housing option for women.

But it has passed the baton to Hope House.

“It’s a case of paying it forward, really,” said Mark Angelini, the president of Mercy Housing Lakefront. “Since we were gifted the building, and we think Hope House is better suited to run it, we want to allow them the chance to grow without the debt that purchasing a building would create.”