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Keeping Families Together: Salvation Army Emergency Lodge

Shelter Director Nancy Szudzik explains how the Lodge helps homeless families get back on their feet.

The Salvation Army Emergency Lodge is one of Milwaukee’s largest homeless shelters.  At any time, it can accommodate at least 120 people.

And it does things a bit differently.

It is one of the only shelters in the area that allows families to stay together, instead of separating men and women, adults and children.

“Homelessness is already a difficult situation to have to address,” said Nancy Szudzik, shelter director. “No one needs to be separated at this time.  It’s already a traumatic event.”

Immediately when families or individuals arrive, they’re paired with a case manager who works to identify the circumstances that led to homelessness.  If children are involved, the Lodge arranges transportation to and from school to minimize the impact on their academic life.

Counselors also help adults to establish an income and insist residents save at least 80 percent of it while they work on an exit strategy.  The lodge also maintains a drug and alcohol free environment, supported by random screenings.

But even though the Lodge is one of the city's biggest haven for the homeless, it has to turn away a growing number of people every day.  Demand simply exceeds supply.

“You have moms breaking down on the phone.  Your heart just breaks for them -- you know they’re calling because they need it,” Szudzik said.

She points to undiagnosed or untreated mental illness as a major factor leading to homelessness.  And the poor economy isn’t helping things either. 

Despite the growing demand, however, Szudzik says the shelter’s mission is to transform residents’ lives, affecting tangible change.

“It is a place to come and be safe while you’re trying to get your life back on track.  And that’s what we do here,” she said.

To learn more about the Salvation Army Emergency Lodge, or to support its mission, visit its official website.