Shelly Smith, director, center, along with board members Janet Wilson and Thomas Pederson. Shellly and Janet visited the River Falls Rotary Club to provide an update on Our Neighbors' Place.
 
Since 2009, Our Neighbors' Place has been a leading social service provider in St. Croix and Pierce Counties, helping clients with shelter, food security, housing, and a variety of other services. Its services are making a difference in the lives of local families and individuals, strengthening our community and building bridges to hope.
With a goal to connect neighbors with support, shelter and housing services to foster self-determination, Our Neighbors’ Place is an award-winning nonprofit organization in Pierce and St. Croix counties. ONP supports the community with four programs designed to help meet basic needs with a holistic approach to strengthening families.
 

A friendly atmosphere of helping

The day center acts as a home away from home for people who are experiencing homelessness or just need somewhere to go. It has a phone, fax, computer, Wi-Fi, children's books, food, laundry, shower, lockers, kitchen living room, mailing address and a person who provides free haircuts.
 
ONP partners with the Pierce County hunger prevention council to provide food, and distributes goods from Panera Bread each week. The Panera program has brought in many people who then are able to find out what other resources the center offers.
 
The day center is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with an onsite professional case manager who can provide comprehensive housing counseling, a portal for statewide housing programs and referrals to other local service providers.
 
"It's hard to ask for help. We provide a safe place for people to do that,” said Shelly. “We provide options for people. We will never tell people they 'should' do something. It’s about providing options and giving resources - self-determination.”
 
The day center points of contact (meaning in person visits or phone calls) have steadily increased over the past four years. In 2015, the center averaged about 86 contacts per month. In 2018 that grew to 343 per month.
Word of mouth and regular hours account for the increase, said Shelly.
 

Clothes for job interviews, supplies for life

 
ONP also has a clothing closet, which provides free and low cost adult clothes, shoes, accessories, outwear. Clients are provided with vouchers to shop for free and vouchers are given to anyone who requests them. Clients do not have to provide income information to use the clothing closet.
 
The clothing closet also provides other items are given to guests as needed, such as: diapers, wipes, personal care products, cleaning products, blankets, towels and more.
 
The closet is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. It’s open to the public! Anyone can come in and shop. Proceeds are turned back to the organization to help provide for other needs.  

 

Backpacks help hungry kids and families

 
The Backpack program provides seven to nine pounds of nonperishable food and vouchers for perishable items, sent home each week during the school year with students from area schools. The program is open to any student in River Falls school district who needs help.
 
Forty volunteers run this program, which helps families when money is tight. For example, last year the district had nine snow days. That is nine days that students were not receiving food through school breakfast and lunch.
In 2017-2018, the program distributed an average of 2,300 pounds of food per month.
 

Transitional housing provides a safe place to recover

Transitional housing is a program wherein families an pay 30 percent of their income toward rent for approximately 12-24 months for safe, stable housing and case management, with a goal of securing permanent housing.
 
In 2016, ONP connected 29 households with housing, delivered 1,393 backpacks to hungry children, and touched over 1,648 individuals with our Day Center.
 
“We couldn’t do it without our volunteers,” said Shelly.
 

How you can help

Want to support Our Neighbors’ Place? Make a donation or attend one of the many activities throughout the year, including:
  • May 17 - Our Neighbor's Day: an open house with tours, yard sale, meal and kids activities.
  • August 6 – National Night Out: visit with police, EMS, and other community services.
  • August 17 – Kinni River Trout Trot 5k: a fundraiser for transitional housing
  • October 26 - 10 year anniversary celebration
  • February 8, 2020: Casino night fundraiser
  • February 18 - Pancake supper
 
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