It would be easy to see the Stepping Stone Permanent Supportive Housing as walls and a roof. When 15-year-old Cydne Donlea walked through the door for the first time her face made it clear this was much more…it was a home.
Stepping Stone has been years in the making and has received wide ranging support from the community, including the City of Wisconsin Dells, the Village of Lake Delton, surrounding townships, schools and churches.
Homelessness has been an ongoing problem in the Wisconsin Dells area. Stepping Stone was created to help families that were struggling to survive financially.
“I know I’ve heard of families living in their cars, but this time of year they’ll tent it,” says Chris Fearing, Executive Director of St Vincent de Paul Society of Wisconsin Dells.
Cydne Donlea, her 13-year-old brother Billy and their parents had been living in a motel and with family until they were accepted at Stepping Stone.
“It is extremely hard, especially on your kids. I mean if it was just me and my wife you can fend off living in your car or something but you can’t do that with your children,” says Bob Donlea.
The family is one of 12 that will be moving into Stepping Stone. It is not free housing, but the rents are set to allow families living below the poverty line to make payments.
“It is 12 families that don’t live out of vans, they don’t live out of hotel rooms, they don’t know where they’re going to live day to day,” says Brian Landers, Mayor of the City of Wisconsin Dells and one of the projects founders.
Stepping Stone also offers mentor services to the families. It gives them guidance and direction that will one day lead them to independence.
“For families it is going to be a home for them and an opportunity to change their lives for the better,” says Fearing.
Stepping Stone hopes to continue to grow the project in the future by partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in the Wisconsin Dells area. The goal is to have families move from the Stepping Stone Permanent Supportive Housing into homes of their own.
“This is awesome. It is like getting a second chance at life,” says Donlea.