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The Benedict Center is keeping homeless women warm and fed this winter

The Benedict Center is a non-profit organization working with women in the criminal justice system. They have a variety of programs servicing women who are homeless, working in prostitution, are being trafficked, or are transitioning out of the criminal justice system. They offer substance abuse and mental health treatment, education, employment training and a number of other services meant to help women thrive in Milwaukee.

TheirSisters Program conducts in-the-street outreach, case management and skill building for women who are in the sex-based trade. Their winter initiative, the warming room, is an overnight shelter where women who are on the streets can have access to a meal and a warm place to sleep at night.

Learn more about the Benedict Center’s warming room in the audio story below, and hear from a woman transforming her life through services at the Benedict Center.

Warming rooms in Milwaukee are typically temperature-based, meaning the weather has to hit a certain low, say 15 degrees, in order for them to open their doors to Milwaukee's homeless community. The Benedict Center opens their doors from December 1 to March 1, with no minimum temperature required.

Arnitta Holliman, the executive director of the Sisters Program, sat down with me at their south side warming room location inside the Hope House on Orchard Street. "Whether it's 10 degrees, 20 degrees, 30 degrees, it's cold," said Holliman. "If you're out on the street and you have nowhere to go, that's cold.

She also talked about the stigmas the women they serve face. Women who are trafficked or work in prostitution are often blamed for the situation they’re in, but Holliman says that is rarely why they end up in this situation. Every woman's story is different, and the Sisters Program caters to each woman in whatever way they can.

“Women don’t end up in this situation because they don’t care about themselves, or their lives or their children or their community,” said Holliman. “At the end of the day, we work with women who are resilient, are brilliant; who care, and want to be cared for.”

The Benedict Center's warming room is open seven days a week from 6pm to 7am on a first come, first served basis. For a list of additional programs and services for Milwaukee's women in need, visit the Benedict Center website here.