The sun sets as early as 4:30 p.m. during Wisconsin winters, making the nights long and for some people–brutally cold and lonely.
The Day by Day Warming shelter opened in 2010 to address the lack of safe, temporary shelter for people in Oshkosh experiencing homelessness during the dark, cold winter nights.
Through community support from local government, police, fire, faith communities and foundations, the shelter offers good food, comfy beds, welcoming people and even hot showers for 25 adults each night from October to April.
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is one community partner helping support the Day by Day Warming Shelter mission. UW Oshkosh partners with the shelter to supply employees, interns and volunteers.
“We could not do what we do without the University,” Sam Zinth ‘13 MS, shelter executive director, said.
The UW Oshkosh Business Success Center helps connect campus resources to the community partner. The Business Success Center works with the shelter to source and employ about a dozen front line staff members each season.
Front line staff work directly with shelter guests. Typically, these are UW Oshkosh students majoring in social work, criminal justice or human services leadership. Outsourcing the employment allows the shelter to operate at capacity–and students to gain professional experiences within their community.
Internships are another way the University helps the shelter. As part of the Human Services Leadership (HSL) program at UW Oshkosh, students gain field experience through internships at local agencies like the Warming Shelter.
HSL interns work closely with the shelter administration to assess and respond to the emerging community and shelter needs, allowing the shelter to offer more to the guests and the community.
Amanda Hammond, a UW Oshkosh HSL student, made an impact when she interned at the shelter for her 120 hour placement. As the community outreach intern, Hammond focused on connecting shelter guests with other community agencies. She helped guests set personal goals and work toward those goals to gain independence in their daily lives.
“We strive to treat our guests with dignity and respect, while empowering them toward self-sufficiency and stability,” Zinth said.
The case management system Hammond helped implement was so successful it led to a full-time position.
In addition to helping with staffing, the University provides access to opportunities through creating classroom connections for UW Oshkosh students studying professional counseling. As part of the service learning component for professional counseling courses focusing on clinical mental health, students have the opportunity to visit and learn about the shelter.
Once on site, the professional counseling students facilitate activities like listening to music, coloring, playing games and basketball–for about an hour and half each week.
“What our students do is really important to the shelter guests,” Amney Harper, UW Oshkosh professional counseling professor, said. “Often these are people who have been ignored all day, and the guests enjoy talking to someone who cares and listens. At the end of the day, they are people who need to know someone cares.”
Beyond the everyday connections the University has to the Warming Shelter, the shelter employs various other UW Oshkosh graduates and serves as a donation drop-off location for UW Oshkosh entities.