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A daytime sanctuary aims to become a place of refuge for Milwaukee's homeless

Where do people go in the daytime if they are homeless or in a housing crisis to work and improve on their situation?

That's the question Sister MacCanon Brown asked that set in motion a sanctuary to help Milwaukee’s homeless community and individuals at risk. The Maccanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary near 24th and Center is purposely located within the 53206 zip code.

“The 53206 zipcode is the most hyper-segregated neighborhood in Milwaukee," said Sister Brown. "Milwaukee, as many people know, is the most hyper-segregated city in the United States and has been for decades.”

Although the sanctuary plans for outreach throughout the entire city, the newly remodeled five-story warehouse is centered in a neighborhood where there is a high concentration of individuals who are homeless. That zip code also has one of the highest incarceration rates in Milwaukee and is a food desert. Sister Brown says the sanctuary will be a place where people can gather in the day time.

“On the first floor, the welcome center is a place where people can be safe, come in, get refuge but have access to all sorts of resources," said Sister Brown. "On cold nights like we are having we would put palettes on the floor and give people a place to stay all night.”

The remaining four floors will serve as a medical floor, that will include a free clinic. There will be a floor for employment centered around an in-house industry as well as a union floor to bring groups together in solidarity. The sanctuary also partnered with MSOE and Groundworks Milwaukee to minimize the existing food desert by creating a green roof and floor with an aquaponics system. 

Although the center hopes to open April of 2020, Sister Brown is still preparing for this coming winter.

“Winter is life-threatening and people die,” said Sister Brown. “It’s nothing to be taken lightly. People die in the cold in Milwaukee.”

The MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary is temporarily located within Hephatha Lutheran Church, on 18th and Locust Street, where they offer a number of services such as free lunch, clothing and time to speak with a nurse.

The sanctuary is also accepting donations of winter items such as coats, gloves, and hats. For more information about services click here.

I had a long conversation with Sister Brown on ways to help the homeless community and I think the first thing to consider is to treat people with kindness and dignity. The upcoming five-story sanctuary is a safe haven for individuals that often feel ignored or invisible. It’s also a reminder that there are constant strides being made in Milwaukee to build a represented community that's safe for everyone.

Audio Storyteller / 88Nine On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee