Success at HALO in March 2017

posted Mar 13, 2017, 7:45 AM by Andrew Koetz   [ updated Mar 14, 2017, 9:47 AM ]

The following is the story of one of HALO's recent clients who was able to successfully exit our program.

Charles entered HALO a few years ago in his early 20s after a falling out with his family. He had a part time job, but had never even finished high school. When he first entered the program, he met with Floyd, HALO's Lead Shelter Case Manager. Floyd strongly encouraged him to take steps that wouldn’t just enable him to leave HALO, but would leave him prepared to provide for himself for the rest of his life. He told him to go back to get his GED so he could have some sort of education, and he asked him to save a percentage of his income each month. “They form you, to be prepared,” he says of this time at HALO.

After a few months of saving money, pursuing his education, and in general learning life skills, Charles decided he was ready to move out. He found a place to move into and continue his part time work. But he didn’t stop there. He finished his GED first. Soon afterwards, he got his fork truck license, and began a full time position driving a fork lift. And now he finds himself a few classes away from finishing his Business Management degree at Gateway technical college. His dream is to open his own restaurant right here in Racine, using these skills that he’s learned.

Charles came back to thank HALO and specifically Floyd for all the support he received. “If you really want to change, you can make it,” is what he tells us, and it is clear that this has become his life motto.

Want to help more clients like Charles find self-sufficiency? You can get involved at HALO by volunteering or by donating!

HALO announces Gai Lorenzen as Interim Executive Director

posted Feb 3, 2017, 1:07 PM by Andrew Koetz

HALO’s board advisory search committee has selected Gai Lorenzen to be the Interim Executive Director for the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization. This announcement comes one week after the former executive director, Kevin Cookman stepped down from the position.

Jim Henderson, HALO Board President, indicated “HALO’s board is very pleased to find someone as knowledgeable and connected to the issues that affect our homeless community as Lorenzen.” As interim executive director, she will lead a very dedicated and passionate staff, including 24 full-time and 18 part-time employees, who last year alone served over 900 individuals experiencing homelessness. Henderson stated that “Lorenzen is eager to continue building on HALO’s mission to provide a pathway to self-sufficiency for those experiencing homelessness in Racine County.”

As a non-profit lawyer with a focus that included affordable housing and community development, Lorenzen is very well known and respected in the Racine community. She will be retiring from Legal Action on February 28, where she has been managing attorney for nearly 20 years. She will start her new role at HALO on March 1. She is very excited to be able to continue making a difference for Racine in her new role, stating:

“HALO has a critical role in addressing the needs of those experiencing homelessness. I look forward to working with the staff, Board and community.”

In addition to working with Legal Action, Lorenzen owned her own law firm from 1995-2001 and served as director of Child Support for Racine County from 1989-1996. As a community leader she served as board president for three organizations: Racine County Continuum of Care, Racine Housing and Neighborhood Partnership, and the Racine Revitalization Partnership. Lorenzen was also named Woman of the Year in 2014 by the Racine Dominicans.

BizTimes Media's Nonprofit Excellence Award

posted Nov 3, 2016, 12:33 PM by Andrew Koetz   [ updated Nov 3, 2016, 1:06 PM ]

Exciting news! HALO was awarded this morning with the BizTimes Media's Nonprofit Excellence Award for our work in Social Enterprises. According to BizTimes, "This award recognizes a nonprofit organization that demonstrates creative application of the principles of social enterprise in the operation and funding of the organization."

As one of 3 finalists, we attended the ceremony in Milwaukee this morning along with many other organizations, most of whom were located in Milwaukee themselves.

HALO's Social Enterprise initiatives include a number of programs designed to help create more opportunities for the men and women coming out of homelessness while also providing additional revenue opportunities to support our core programming. Recipe for Success utilizes our unused kitchen space to provide local food entrepreneurs with a commercial space to grow their business, while providing the men and women in our shelter with employment opportunities. Growing Home distributes fresh produce grown on site to local households, including many in HALO's housing programs, all while offering opportunities for HALO program participants to learn growing skills. And our Housing Rehab Program helps to provide more affordable, quality housing for the people of Racine, especially including those moving out of HALO.

Thank you BizTimes for recognizing and HALO and all the other nonprofits included in this event. Your support means so much to our organization and helps to validate the important work we are doing in the Racine Community!

Executive Director Letter about Transitional Housing

posted Oct 17, 2016, 12:06 PM by Andrew Koetz

As you may have heard, HALO's Transitional Housing Program has been forced to close due to drastic cuts to this nationwide program by the Federal Government. Read a letter from Kevin Cookman about this program below:

The Racine community recently lost a valuable resource for individuals and families transitioning out of homelessness: HALO’s Transitional Housing Program. This May, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a sharp cut nationwide for all Transitional Housing programs in order to favor more permanent housing initiatives. This decision required HALO to cease offering 19 apartment units and to let go of 2 case managers.

Since 2005, HALO’s Transitional Housing has given 293 individuals, including 160 children, the opportunity to transition from homelessness into self-sufficiency. This program greatly minimized any return to homelessness by providing a furnished apartment for up to 24 months along with the continual guidance of a case manager. Nationally as well as throughout Racine, transitional housing proved extremely effective in decreasing returns to homelessness and increasing employment for families.

HALO has seen a rapid rise in the residents of our women’s and children’s shelter since the closing of this program. It is currently at its highest capacity in recent memory – up to 90% full with over 30 children. We will continue to serve those who would have utilized the Transitional Housing Program by giving them shelter and individual support through our Journey to Self-Sufficiency Program.

Amidst these challenges, government support for our shelter has continued its decline (see graph on right). However, with this decline, we have seen the Racine Community step up to the challenge. Because of your support, HALO has given thousands of individuals and families the opportunity to rebuild their lives. Last year, a record 50.1% of our program participants moved into stable housing with the income needed to provide for themselves. That remarkable number is entirely because of HALO’s amazing supporters: each one of you. We will need your continued support to help offset the loss of this valuable Transitional Housing Program.

If you ever have questions regarding any of HALO’s programs, issues of homelessness in Racine, or all the ways you can help out, please get in touch with us! We’d love to speak with you. Simply call Andy Koetz, HALO’s Community Outreach Manager, at 262-633-3235 ext. 143 or send him an email at

Sincerely and with blessings,

Kevin Cookman

Excerpt from our April Newsletter!

posted Apr 4, 2016, 7:31 AM by Andrew Koetz   [ updated Apr 4, 2016, 7:34 AM ]

The story here is an excerpt from our April Newsletter. If you want to sign up to receive more stories like this, fill out the box at the bottom!

Chris's Story
“I just want to follow this quote I learned in the 12 step program, ‘Give back what was so freely given to me,’” 
Chris told me. 

“So would you call that your life motto then?” I asked. 

“Yeah, I think so.” 

Chris originally entered HALO with AODA (alcohol and other drug addiction) issues so massive, that he says he had little hope for living. But he knew HALO would be a safe place for him off the streets. He says he was fortunate; he found work right away, and he started with a 12 step program on the path to sobriety. “Coming here [to HALO] was the key to leading me to the 12 step program, and that was the key to dealing with my disease, once and for all,” he tells me.

And he hasn’t just begun to deal with his AODA issue. He’s begun to help others with the same struggle. His 12 step program encouraged service living, and he took that to heart. “I was blessed with a car and a job that I could use to help other people get on that path.” He would pack people into his small pickup truck in order to get them to meetings entirely free of charge. After a few months in HALO, he had saved enough money to move out on his own, but he specifically chose to move into the Oxford House, a men’s sober living environment that has helped him continue to live well. Within a few months, he had become President of this house, based upon his passion for helping the men around him.

“I’m 50 years old, and I’m learning to become a responsible person again,” he tells me. And now that he knows he can do that, he wants to help the community. “I want to lead by example and show people that they can change too.”

Sign up below to get more stories of how people all around Racine are able to succeed coming out of HALO's programs.

What's it like to be in our programs?

posted Mar 3, 2016, 8:15 AM by Andrew Koetz   [ updated Mar 3, 2016, 8:36 AM ]

This is an excerpt from our Spring HALO Happenings Newsletter. To sign up for our email list and receive more stories like this, please enter your email in the form at the bottom!

Some of our amazing HALO students participate in tutoring
after school with a great volunteer for HALO.

Success at HALO

A few months ago, a woman who we’ll call Chantyl entered HALO with a number of barriers to reaching self-sufficiency. Before coming to HALO Chantyl was disabled and in a wheel chair, but on top of this difficulty, she had very persistent mental health issues. She had been living on her own, but after a mental health breakdown severe enough to get police involved and her truck impounded, she had to plot a new course.

Chantyl began working with the Mental Health branch of the Human Services Department (HSD) and eventually found her way into HALO. Continuing this work with HSD and HALO, she was able to progress from having to be forced into mental health treatment to keeping track of her own medications and seeking out services on her own. She began to save money through HALO and was able to get her truck back.

After just a few short months in HALO’s program, she entered a senior living facility, where she will continue to work with mental health professionals and receive the support she needs to succeed. Some of her final days at HALO took place around the holidays. Because of this, she was able to be a part of HALO’s Santa’s Village program, and experience the joy of receiving presents while knowing that there are people out there who genuinely care about her.

From the Executive Director

posted Feb 16, 2016, 11:11 AM by Stephanie Martin   [ updated Feb 16, 2016, 1:44 PM ]

One of the biggest and most important steps for each person that enters HALO comes at the very end of their stay here: their move out date. HALO’s mission is to provide a pathway to self-sufficiency for those experiencing homelessness in Racine County, and finding our clients a good place to live is crucial to success. However, a great obstacle to this success is the challenge of finding safe and stable housing. 

This housing is important for HALO’s Transitional and Permanent Housing Programs (THP & PHP) as well as our residents who move out on their own. HALO leases 43 units for 65 individuals and families throughout Racine who have severe disabilities and/or high barriers to overcoming their formerly homeless situation. These units have to meet certain quality standards in order to keep residents safe while remaining in our price range. There are some wonderful landlords throughout Racine that we work with to provide this housing, but the need for more is far greater than what is available.

HALO has already begun work in rehabbing foreclosed or vacant homes around our community, in partnership with Land-Quest, Forward Community Investments, the City and County of Racine, The HOME Investment Partnerships Program, and Wells Fargo. The past few months, we finished our first three homes, two of which will soon be filled with clients straight from HALO’s programs. However, because the need is so great, HALO is now stepping in to be one of the founding members of the Racine Revitalization Partnership.

We hope that by entering into this partnership with a number of different key stakeholders from Racine, we will be able to have a greater impact on the families and individuals experiencing homelessness. It is our firm belief that the foundation to living self-sufficiently is a safe and stable home; without this, people will continue to fall through the cracks. A collective effort by the Racine Revitalization Partnership, beginning in the Uptown neighborhood of Racine, can create the stable homes that become the foundation for the success of not only HALO’s participants, but all of Racine. 

We hope that you will continue to support HALO as we pursue long term solutions to the deep and complex problems of homelessness. Without the backing of community members like you, we would not be able to work towards these solutions. 

Kevin Cookman, Executive Director

Life in HALO over Christmas

posted Dec 29, 2015, 9:13 AM by Andrew Koetz   [ updated Dec 29, 2015, 9:20 AM ]

Ever wonder what it would be like to be staying at HALO over the holidays? We work very hard to make sure that individuals and families staying in our shelter can experience an enjoyable Christmas, and this year the Racine Journal Times profiled the Christmas Eve celebration that Prince of Peace Lutheran Church threw for the people in HALO experiencing homelessness.

Read the article, originally published here, below!

RACINE — With help from many in the community, the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization made sure the 17 children living at the city’s primary homeless shelter experienced Christmas.

A visit from Santa Claus, Christmas-themed craft projects and presents donated by the Racine Police Department were in store Thursday for families staying at the shelter, 2000 DeKoven Ave.

The Christmas party brings everyone in the shelter together, said Brenna Freeman, who has lived in the shelter with her three children for the past few months.

About 72 people currently live in the shelter, including 41 in the portion for women and children.

“It’s nice that they do this for the kids,” said Freeman, 33, “because they wouldn’t get to do that otherwise.”

Among the craft projects children enjoyed were building gingerbread houses, which was not by accident. Stephanie Kober, HALO’s family program director, said the gingerbread houses are included, in part, to get families excited about building a home together.
Community shows support

Kober said donations are a key part of HALO’s Christmas programming, which includes an Adopt-a-Family program to help families at the shelter during the holidays.

“The community of Racine during the holidays … really goes above and beyond for everyone,” Kober said.

Many of the supplies for this year’s Christmas party were donated by Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 4340 6 Mile Road, Caledonia.

Dena Guziewicz, a congregation member, said the church frequently looks for ways to help the community and jumped at the chance to help Halo’s Christmas party.

The event was also a good opportunity to bring her two daughters to Halo, she said.

“It’s a good way to show them what Christmas is about,” she said.

Stories of Success!

posted Dec 11, 2015, 2:06 PM by Andrew Koetz   [ updated Dec 11, 2015, 2:16 PM ]

A different HALO client returns for a visit after he
finished his GED

It is an exciting day for the employees of HALO when we see longtime residents move out on their own, ready to be self-sufficient. Something that is even more exciting is when those clients not only stay self-sufficient, but then come back because they would like to do a little giving back of their own. The other day Richard (his name has been changed here) stopped in to HALO for this very purpose.

Richard originally came to HALO with drug addiction issues, as well as a small degree of mental illness due to some past brain trauma. He spent three different instances in HALO. According to Richard, all of these came about because he had nowhere else to go at the time, and some poor choices had led him out of his previous living situation. However, today he has been clean and sober for 8 years, has a steady job and a place to live, and he is wanting to give back to his community in any way that he knows how.

Richard showed back up at HALO one day, not because he needed services, but because he wanted to encourage and talk with some of the people that were in the very situation he had found himself in the past. Richard sat down and talked with Andy Koetz about some of the things that run through his mind when considering issues of homelessness and success.

Richard asked the question, “Am I a failure because I needed to humble myself in order to come to a homeless shelter? Just because I committed a crime, made a mistake, or ended up in a situation of homelessness, doesn’t mean that these things define who I am.”

Richard was thankful for HALO and wanted to express how important HALO’s programs are for the people staying here. “These guys and women are able to deal with their issues and get back out there working, paying taxes, contributing, and being independent.” He kept coming back to the idea that the people in this shelter could one day be the community leaders in Racine helping others, “We often forget, but someday the people here will be in the community giving back. Giving to HALO is an investment. Just because it doesn’t benefit you right now, doesn’t mean that it isn’t helping a lot of people in HALO. And it may come back to help you someday too.”

Richard talked about how amazing it is if what people give to HALO could help even one person, giving them opportunities to be off drugs, clean and sober. He mentioned, “I learned one time that entrepreneurs in business often have to fail 13 times before they succeed. Shouldn’t we apply principles like that to people having to relearn their coping skills and recover from addictions?”

Richard mentioned the many people that worked hard to make sure that he knew they cared for him and didn’t want him to fail, including his case manager Floyd and a Racine Sheriff who began investing in him. He credits his success to the ways they pushed him.

Exciting News in the HALO Childcare Center!

posted Dec 7, 2015, 11:57 AM by Andrew Koetz   [ updated Dec 9, 2015, 1:03 PM ] have some very exciting news to announce about HCC!

First of all, the HALO Childcare Center has just received our National Accreditation! This accreditation is provided through the National Accreditation Commission (NAC) of the Association for Early Learning Leaders. 
NAC offers programs the opportunity to demonstrate and document quality performance using research based standards and evidence based practices.

This accreditation places HALO in the top 1.2 percent of all child cares in the state of Wisconsin; All this is to a child care that serves primarily low income families in a homeless shelter! Needless to say, others are asking how we do it, and Stephanie and Katie, our director and manager, are working hard to find funding so they can present for the numerous national conferences for early childhood education that want to hear about the great work they do.

The second exciting news is about Katie Batson, the lead teacher for the infant and toddler program. Katie has received the Wisconsin Division for Early Childhood and the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association's Early Childhood Educator of the Year Award! She attended the award ceremony just the other week in Madison, and was surprised as the rest of the center's teachers had showed up to congratulate her!

All of this exciting news appeared in a front page article of the Racine Journal Times, which you can find HERE. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Batson, who has worked at HALO for the past 2½ years, is the lead teacher of HALO’s infant and toddler program.

She called the job the most rewarding she’s ever had. In addition to day care, staff members offer families guidance and support on a variety of parenting issues.

Kober said Batson is well-loved by parents and kids, who like painting on, and running toy cars, over her bald head. Batson is open about her autoimmune disease, called alopecia areata, which causes hair loss. Many mistake it for cancer, she said, but she’s actually perfectly healthy.

Batson is a “perfect mix of nurturing and learning,” Kober said, and a natural fit to work with infants and toddlers.

“Everything that she does comes with compassion,” Kober said, “because I think she really genuinely cares not only about the child, but the child as part of a family.”
Katie plays with the children in HCC's Green Room.

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