Housing, homeless agencies will be stronger as Pillars

Pillars Logo

With an eye on improved outcomes for the people they serve, the Fox Valley Warming Shelter, Homeless Connections and the Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities have merged into a new organization that will be known as Pillars.

Several dozen community supporters were on hand for the reveal of the name and mission statement Monday at U.S. Venture in Appleton. Deliberations to consider formal collaboration between the agencies were several years in the making.

Joe Mauthe, previously director of the Housing Partnership, is the new Executive Director of Pillars. “I think this consolidation has come together well because each agency shares the belief in one very strong value: We understand the value of ‘home,’” Mauthe said.  “Every day we see the struggles that some experience when they do not have a place to call home.”

Pillars currently employ 50 staff. Collectively, the agency provides 48,000 nights of shelter to adults and families experiencing homelessness and quality, affordable homes to 150 households each year. Between the two shelters, Pillars provides 133 beds to adults and families experiencing homelessness each night. Services include prevention, street outreach, homeless shelter services, transitional and affordable housing. The new agency has a combined revenue of $3.6 million.

Pillars’ new executive director has led the Housing Partnership since 2013. Prior to 2013, Mauthe served as Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources at Plexus and a variety of human resources roles at Kimberly-Clark. He earned his undergraduate degree from St. Norbert College and a Master of Business Administration degree from Marquette University.

Architecturally, pillars are a solid structure, made to stand the test of time. The name was chosen because pillars rarely stand alone, are stronger together and support something larger than themselves – just as the Fox Valley Warming Shelter, Homeless Connections and the Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities, as a united agency, can better support the people they serve.

“This merger builds on an impressive legacy of homeless and housing services in the Fox Cities – 37 years with Homeless Connections, 32 years with the Housing Partnership and a decade with the Warming Shelter,” said Scott Peeples, Pillars Senior Director of Community Engagement.  “None of the appreciable programs and services we provide for people struggling with housing instability will go away but the new structure will allow for a more seamless process.”

Peeples’ former role was Executive Director of the Fox Valley Warming Shelter.

Jerome Martin, former executive director of Homeless Connections, will be Senior Director of Crisis Housing in the new agency. In addition to the Pillars Adult Shelter (formerly Warming Shelter) and Pillars Adult and Family Shelter (formerly Homeless Connections), he will have oversight of the recently opened Pillars Resource Center, located at St. Mathew’s Lutheran Church in Appleton.

“As an organization, Pillars will enhance our clients’ ability to succeed while preserving the integrity of existing agency programs, missions and philosophies,” Martin said.  “As the newest piece of the puzzle, Pillars Resource Center gives clients the opportunity to access services in a safe, supportive environment that leverages the strengths of all three organizations,” Martin said.

Throughout merger negotiations and formal board votes in April, the City of Appleton and several funding organizations in the Fox Cities have been solidly behind the consolidation resulting in Pillars.  Funders for the first two phases of merger discussions included U.S. Venture Schmidt Family Foundation, J.J. Keller Foundation, United Way Fox Cities, Bemis Company Foundation, Thrivent, Capital Credit Union and the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.  Committee work was facilitated by Vista Global Coaching and Consulting. Legal and financial due diligence was completed by Scholz Nonprofit Law. The Pillars logo and brand was developed by Quill Creative.

Longtime city of Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna, who was in office when the Warming Shelter was founded in 2008, has long been a supporter of homeless and housing services in Appleton. He has participated in twice-yearly “Point In Time counts, where volunteers comb the streets in the middle of the night to search for people who are homeless.  At the news conference, he held up the community spirit behind creation of the new organization and for the individuals determined to create a better system of care through Pillars.

“This will be such a phenomenal resource to our community,” said Greg Vandenberg, U.S. Venture Director of Giving and Community Engagement.  “Most days, those suffering homelessness have no place to build relationships or access resources that can help them build life skills and connect then to stable housing. This merger, and its new day resource center, will do just that — not just shelter those in need, but come alongside them, train and equip them to provide a pathway to stable housing.”

J.J. Keller Foundation Executive Director Heidi Dusek spoke on behalf of the foundation.

“It takes courage for a client to show up at any door of these organizations,” Dusek noted.  “Through this merger there is no wrong door.  The clients do not have to determine how to navigate the maze of support, or start over with a new organization as they progress toward stable housing. “

Dusek said the foundation understands that organizations who have access to high-quality business expertise leads to high quality run organizations who can focus on their mission-related work.

Vandenberg continued: “U.S. Venture, along with our friends at J.J. Keller, have always believed collaboration is essential to reduce complex and gnarly issues like homelessness. To see three organizations move through collaboration to integration and ultimately merger validates the collaborative approach to funding we have tried to model. “

Pillars newly appointed board president Tom Veeser was also on hand to celebrate the advent of Pillars.

“This is a great day for the clients we serve, the non-profit arena and for our community as a whole,” Veeser said.  “With this merger, we are creating new hope, a new vision for the way we do our work.  Homelessness and housing instability are complicated issues but the Fox Cities is a great place. We care about each other—that is the ethic of our community.”

Mauthe continued: “We see lives transformed when they have a place to call home. Simply put, we’re better together in providing this level of support to our community.”

In addition to Mauthe, Peeples and Martin, the Pillars leadership team includes Tara Prahl, Supportive Services Director; Rachel Youngquist, Stable Housing Director; Sara Kranpitz, Finance Director; and Anne Muller, Organizational Support Director.

The Adult Shelter and the Adult and Family Shelter, along with the new Pillars Day Resource Center, remain in their current locations. Pillars administrative office is located at 605 E. Hancock St. in Appleton.

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