EAU CLAIRE — A downtown Eau Claire homeless shelter would more than double in size with a proposed addition, eliminating bunk beds but not increase its overall capacity.
Catholic Charities submitted plans for the expansion of Sojourner House, 618 S. Barstow St., that will expand the building to meet recommendations from public health experts.
Casey Stadler of Minnesota-based Wieser Brothers General Contractor wrote in a letter to the city that social distancing espoused by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the current COVID-19 pandemic and potential future public health problems guided the design.
“The current capacity to shelter 53 individuals each night will remain,” he wrote. “However, the expansion will allow us to ‘unbunk’ the sleeping quarters and socially distance guests at the 6-foot CDC recommendation.”
The addition and renovation also does offer increased capacity for overflow during extreme weather situations, he added.
Eau Claire’s Plan Commission will review the shelter expansion project during its 7 p.m. Monday meeting in City Hall, 203 S. Farwell St. The commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing and then vote on whether a conditional use permit should be granted for the project and on approving its site plan.
According to the designs, a two-story addition would be added to the front of the shelter on what is currently its off-street parking spaces.
About 3,150 square feet of the current shelter will be renovated, opening up the existing space to be used entirely for the separate men’s and women’s sleeping quarters and restrooms. Currently the sleeping area is smaller as that portion of the building also includes a community room, kitchen and other support spaces.
The addition would have 3,450 square feet on its ground floor. This area will include some of the men’s sleeping area, but also the new activity room, kitchen, changing rooms, client storage and reception area.
On the second floor of the addition, there will be 2,750 square feet of office and support space. This would be for employees of Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services that currently provide outreach, crisis and housing help, but also have room for more organizations to join in.
“This project enacts a plan to create capacity for multiple organizations to provide daytime services in the Eau Claire community under one roof,” stated Stadler’s memo to the city.
As the addition would eliminate the building’s small parking lot, Catholic Charities is suggesting that employees, volunteers and clients use existing public parking in the vicinity. Catholic Charities also may lease a few parking spots in a nearby city-owned lot for employees to use.
In late April, the Eau Claire City Council approved using a one-time boost in Community Development Block Grant Funding from federal coronavirus pandemic relief funding to help fund the shelter’s expansion. Sojourner House will get $331,145 from that grant program to help with the project.
Also during Monday night’s Plan Commission meeting:
• A site plan for Eau Claire’s new Transit Transfer Center will be subject to a public hearing and vote by the commission. Replacing the city’s current transfer station at 402 S. Farwell St., the new six-story structure will have a bus station on its ground floor. The second and third floors will be a parking ramp. The top three floors will have a total of 87 apartments that will be built by a private developer.