A pastor who pushed to build a new homeless shelter in Wisconsin after his community’s only one shuttered in 2018 received special mention for his work from the state’s governor, Tony Evers, this week in his 2020 State of the State address.
"I felt like it was something that I could do that my faith compelled me to do," Rev. Dave Mowers, who is rector of Trinity Church in Baraboo, told 27 News.
Mowers is also the president of the board for the Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter, which is set to open in the spring after the completion of renovation work on the facility.
Last December when he gave community leaders a tour of the facility, he explained to WMTV that there were no homeless shelters in Baraboo or nearby Sauk City and Prairie du Sac. In the entire county, he also noted that there were no beds for men, only spaces for women and children.
“Jesus cares about those folks, so for me that’s been the only motivator that I needed. When it became clear this was a need, I said, ‘I can’t really say no to this because this was just so clearly what Christian people ought to be about,’” he said at the time.
Mowers was not immediately available for an interview when his church was contacted by The Christian Post on Thursday.
In highlighting the challenges faced by the state in his address Wednesday, Gov. Evers used the pastor’s work to highlight the issue of homelessness.
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“The struggles we face will test both the depth of our empathy and the strength of our selflessness. But Wisconsinites, I know we are up to the task, because it is the depth of our empathy and the strength of our selflessness that have defined who we are as a people for generations,” Evers said before pointing to Mowers.
“People like Reverend Mowers who, after the only homeless shelter in his area closed a few years ago, worked with the Department of Safety and Professional Services to expedite the new shelter and get it opened so his neighbors would have a place to stay … Reverend, thanks for helping make this happen,” Evers said.
According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, as of January 2018, Wisconsin had an estimated 4,907 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Of that total, 660 were family households, 332 were veterans, 246 were unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24), and 527 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.
Public school data reported to the U.S. Department of Education during the 2016-2017 school year shows that an estimated 18,592 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year. Of that total, 274 students were unsheltered, 2,675 were in shelters, 1,305 were in hotels/motels, and 14,338 were doubled up.
Evers, according to WKOW, has been urging lawmakers to pass a series of bills to fight homelessness. Last year, the State Assembly approved the entire package. The Senate only approved one measure this week, which provides $500,000 in each of the next two years for area shelters.
Organizers of Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter have been relying on the support of their community, which has so far donated more than $100,000 for the project.
Mowers explained to WKOW that he believes the governor's attention to homeless issues will help the greater community better understand what it means to be homeless in Wisconsin.
"People think it looks like panhandlers on State Street in Madison. And in rural Wisconsin, it largely does not look like that. It looks like families with kids. And a lot of folks just don't realize that," the pastor said.