Sunday, December 04, 2005

No Room at the Inn

A sigh of relief was what I felt last spring when the weather warmed and no one in Oshkosh had frozen to death. What will happen this winter? A few weeks ago a fellow in town woke up to a 17-degree temperature in the back of a pickup truck (not his) and hung up his camping experience and is now staying in someone's basement. Today's column is about the homeless problem in Oshkosh. It is not about medical clinics. It is not about free meal programs for the poor. It is about housing for the homeless. This is not a rant about Father Carr's Place 2B Ltd., but it will be an eye-opener. Serious problems need to be addressed and it is my hope that my words today will lead the way to a community-wide discussion.

Appleton has two homeless shelters. They run at near capacity in the winter months. The staff at these shelters must cringe when a homeless person dropped at their door declares they are from Oshkosh. They know about that giant monolith of a shelter in Oshkosh visible to all who travel Hy.41. They also know that almost all of the (approx.) 180 rooms are vacant on a cold night in January.

Father Carr's Place 2B Ltd. is that mega-complex homeless shelter visible from the highway next to KMart. Father Carr collected over $1.1 million in contributions from donors last year. What those donors don't realize is that the shelter is virtually empty every night of the year. Father Carr, with a net worth of just under $5 million, houses almost no one. You can check these figures by going here and typing in: Father Carr's Place 2B Ltd.
You can check on attendance at the shelter visually anytime you are in that neighborhood.

People who recently received a fund-raising letter from him should note two items which are glaringly absent. Nowhere can the words 'Roman Catholic Church' be found. Nowhere in that letter can 'Diocese of Green Bay' be found. It is apparent to me that he has no oversight from a parent organization. I will hereby refer to him in this article as Mr. Carr (with no disrespect to his background).

The federal housing agency HUD takes a survey every year in order to allocate funds to various agencies which help the homeless. ADVOCAP in Oshkosh is one of those. In order to complete the HUD report, private shelters such as Father Carr's are asked to supply a simple report which includes the number of beds and the number of current clients. Mr. Carr has ignored this survey in the past with the result that ADVOCAP and other groups may have lost out on receiving funds they might have been entitled to. Mr. Carr recently has verbally agreed to allow this survey to be completed for the next reporting cycle. This is an encouraging sign. I hope he follows through.

Mr. Carr routinely tosses clients out on their ear for no apparent reason. He states that he runs an emergency shelter. An emergency might be three days or a week. We must take him at his word. Does Oshkosh need a 180-bed emergency shelter?

A fellow in town who I will refer to as Accordion Man has experience with Mr. Carr and also with the shelters in Appleton. He tells me that in Appleton during the orientation he was told that the shelter would work with him and that he would stay 'as long as it takes' to iron out his problems and find housing. He said they held up their end of the bargain. He did find a job and the shelter assisted him until he was able to rent a place.

Transitional housing...
The Appleton shelters provide emergency housing. It is apparent to me that they also provide transitional housing. Mr. Carr does not provide transitional housing in Oshkosh.

Clients not only need to find work, they need to build up a nest egg. Many landlords want the first month's rent, the last month's rent, and a security deposit. Many clients also have obligations such as child support, fines, and past due power and light bills. This is what transitional housing is about. FATHER CARR'S PLACE 2B DOES NOT PROVIDE TRANSITIONAL HOUSING.

The nicest thing that I can say is Mr. Carr is not getting the job done.

Many well meaning churches and individuals contribute to this shelter every year and are under the impression that the job is getting done. Grab your phone and call a member of the clergy right now. Ask them what to do about a homeless person. They will invariably say: "Our church donates to Father Carr's. Give him a call." Mr. Carr however is not doing what these well meaning folks think he is. Mr. Carr is collecting donations and running an empty emergency shelter.
Here is my suggestion. Mr. Carr is not going to change his way of doing things any time soon. Please direct your contributions regarding the homeless to other agencies. The first ones that come to mind would be the Salvation Army and the Christine Ann Center. They need the cash to put people up in area motels and also to transport clients to shelters in other cities.
What can you do?
Pass on this link electronically or in hard copy to a neighbor or friend who belongs to another church. Urge the Northwestern or the Post Crescent or the Valley Scene to do a feature on this subject. I profess limited knowledge on this subject but at the same time I can clearly see the problems. I of course welcome comments on this blog. I have already had a public comment from Eye on Oshkosh and Tony Palmeri has expressed an interest. I didn't write this to damn Mr. Carr. I want input and conversation that works toward solutions. Please direct the comments toward housing. Comments on medical clinics and free meals for the poor belong in another column.
Still thirsty for more? Check out Prof. Dennis P. Culhane:

Mr. Culhane has been doing extensive research on the homeless. He does this big time in places such as the Big Apple. Some high points...

  • 40% of those entering the shelter system in New York City have passed through other institutions such as hospitals, detox, jails, foster care and the like.
  • Many are recycled through those institutions again and again.
  • The chronic homeless in New York City cost an average of $40,000 per year, per person to shuffle through these various institutions.

Mr Culhane has come to the conclusion that it might be cheaper to GIVE free housing to many of these folks along with adequate supervision. It would be cheaper than the alternative.

Peace. ---Oh yes: Merry Christmas.


Anonymous said...

I remember the last time I was at the Christene Ann Center, I was there for community service for reasons I wish not to disclose...
anyways, I did a lot of work there and they seemed to be full up too, I always heard someone talking or yelling near the houses.
They told me that if I ever needed to(I was with an abusive boyfriend) I could stay there and get away from him for a few days.
Some people there had been there for years and lord did they need it! The center had the charity to keep them there too!
After my time was done there, I continued to keep close ties with the center and I learned that not only will they help battered men and women but they will help just about anyone. I have on several occasions had to go there to file reports because I was too afraid to go to the police. They gladly did wonderfull services to help me out. When I left they did hint at a budget strain, I could tell just from my work.

Mr. Carr, I have had experiance with him too, his staff is politely rude, seems to want to be rid of you. I always seem to get the feeling someone is watching me whenever I go there.

One thing I dont understand is why did he move from downtown to all the way the heck out there by the highway. I could understand if he had a store out there and was trying to attract out of town visitors, but this is supposed to be a place to live! What is out there? Nothing!
I dont think that was a smart move doing that, it seems to me that he's making it very obvious that he does not want to help anyone, but he wants to have the power and prestige without doing anything.
Know what I mean?
Everyone I know has been so shocked by the writing, they all hold Mr.Carr into such high regard, that he really is doing his job. Mr. Carr is a human being and he can do wrong too!
It is up to those who have been wronged to get together and do something to get him to help, we are human beings too and we dont deserve to be treated as any less.

Mr. Carr, I want to know what you see in us. I want to know how you consider the things I hear justifiable. I dont even think you care anymore, I know what you used to be like.Please, tell us all what you mean by throwing people out into the freezing cold on their own.
When the spring comes and the thaw goes, I too will rejoice if no one dies. I dont want any more Ed Cooks, I dont want any more Pete's or "Jim"'s I WANT LIFE!
I want to know when will someone help us live here?
or do we have to be left hanging
for an answer from the only one that will?

Hope in this town is like the sunlight, it's fading into the darkness and in the cold abyss will we ever come out of the night?

tony palmeri said...


Based on the content of your post, perhaps a more accurate headline would be "TOO MUCH Room at the Inn." --TP

AngelAiken AKA Thee U.M.O.G said...

Too much room is right!
I have been telling others about this to help you, something needs to be done.

Anonymous said...

Father Carr has helped countless people out of troubled times. Sometimes the situation people get into are overwhelming and poor decions have been made. Fr Carr helps to structure their lives and and get a foothold in the world. If this structure or plan is not followed one person could cause chaos in a shelter. This is not a flop house for the chronic poor decision makers it is a place of security that celebrates people trying to better themselves. If you need a place to stay but cannot follow the structure that allows all within to thrive then you have to find somewhere else to go. I have been a volenteer at the homeless shelter and seen people come and go. The group sessions are honest and the rules are straight forward. People in times of crisis do not need anarchy. They need support and safety. Anyone person who cannot be counted on to make the step to helping themselves need to find a different place to stay. Many come back when they come to the conclusion that we all need to help ourselves in a way that is not detrimental to the group.
Father Carr is not Mister Carr he is a Catholic priest and any disrespect shown to his title is a slap in the face to the Catholic church. Father has been working for the homeless all his life he is also working for the good of people in Oshkosh who help out aat the Place 2B. He is a trained professional who will stand up for all the people in the shelter by making rules that keep people moving forward in their time of trouble.
I think Tony does a disservice to Oshkosh by taking a situation between Oshkosh and Appleton and make a "story". Homeless people are often in a bad situation and blame comes easily. They move from shelter to shelter and explain why things didn't work out in the last place they were sheltered. I'm sure I could add stories about the other crisis centers but thats not the point. The point is Father helps people the way they need to be helped instead of filling in a wish list. If helping the poor was as easy and tidy as donating a slightly used article of clothing every year we would have the problem liked. But individual people make their own decisions and if they are not healthy they will not "pull themselve up by the bootstraps". These people cannot stay and poison the system.
Father does many poor people's funerals. Father Carr was there. Before you go stripping, people who are trying to help, of their dignity you better have a better understanding of the complexity of their problems.
Oshkosh is blessed with the Christine Anne Center and the Place 2B because we love our city and give joyfully to those who have less.
Glory to God, Peace starts with food and shelter.
Merry Christmas

tony palmeri said...

To Anonymous:

You say "I think Tony does a disservice . . ." I think you have me confused with the blog author. I have not written any "story" about this issue--not yet anyway. --Tony

Anonymous said...

Heady reply Tony! Insightful

Anonymous said...

"Father" does help some, but it is just not enough. This is an important issue and I think that it raises the question of his monopoly on housing.
Yes, monopoly on housing!
A monopoly is defined as having total control over and that's what "father" has. And it gives him too much power, someone else should step in as a second and keep him in check...

Gary said...

To Anonymous #2: This is not Tony Palmeri's site. This is Gary From Oshkosh's site. Blame me. Don't blame Tony. You clicked on a link at Tony's site which led you to my site.

I sincerely commend you for your volunteer work. It takes a special person to do what you do. I thank you and the Oshkosh community thanks you.

People do not enter a shelter because their life is in order. That we can certainly agree upon. Anyone who volunteers, such as you do, must have the patience of a saint. They must be kind, firm, and urge the client to better themselves. Those clients are going to continue with the faulty habits which put them in the shelter in the first place. It is your level of patience and temperment which is going to make the difference in convincing them to better themselves. Clients are routinely booted from the Place 2B for minor infractions. They are there as a last resort. They should be disciplined, not sent out in the cold.

Fr Carr has always been a rough-edged person, barely civil. He appears to have become combative and arrogant to the extreme. He is barely civil to the general public, routinely blows up at clients in private, and seems happy only when someone has a checkbook and pen in hand. You know this if you are a volunteer. I am not pointing out anything you haven't seen.

There is something wrong. Shelters in Fond du Lac, Appleton, and Green Bay are full. Father Carr's had SIX clients eat lunch there yesterday!

Thank you again for your volunteer work. Drivers are needed to deliver people to shelters in other cities. If you have a good running car and a full gas tank you could offer to do this. Call the Christine Ann Center or the Salvation Army and offer your services. Thanks. ---Gary

bones said...

i for one iam not happy with martin,carr with him he hides be hind amask and if any body,knows what i mean.has akid he started out at st pete,s church with the place to be,on pearl st i for one still think thers something fishee about him,isher hope they do something about him and the way he hides behind that mask.

AngelAiken AKA Thee U.M.O.G said...

bones, you sure have got that right!

Anonymous said...

To the volunteer, I can perform funerals too but I don't proclaim to be a priest. Would your (father) kick out the disciples or jesus because they would refuse to shave their beards or moustaches.

Anonymous said...

to the last anonomous:
If it was Jesus, no, never! it's god duh!

What about the little ones?

aaa said...

As a teenager living in Oshkosh in the 80's, Fater Carr's Place 2B was a great place to go to listen to music and get drunk or high. It was totally overseen by 19-20 yr old derelicks! I personally knew of a teenager who obtained liquor from his Place 2B (not Carr himself, but one of the 20 yr olds) taken to a house where a young lady was babysitting and when the parents returned found their babysitter passed out on the couch and thankfully both babies safe! I remember Father Carr going down for this back then and I think the place closed for awhile I am very sad to see that nothing has changed. I am glad that Appleton has gotten homeless people back on their feet as a family member now needs those services. I agree with Carr's philosphy on one point. People in need of these services often hhave a million and one excuses and can find someone else responsible for their predicament. I am a firm believer that you can lead the horse to water bu you can not make them drink. I can not financially support my family member, but can give them the information to help themselves. I do hope there are organizations out there that do not enable but really help organize and stabilize these individuals lives. I do know from experience that if you owe and don't do anything about it at all it just grows and grows and grows. I have never liked Carr even when i was a child he is nasty and I always thought that catholic priests could not possess anything or did that idea go out when the raping was brought up in the news.