Welcome to MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary!
In March of 2014, the MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary (MBHS) was launched as a new start-up nonprofit without any money and without any resources. Founders created MBHS so that MacCanon Brown’s successful 22-year track record of work with Milwaukee’s homeless could continue, seeing her vision as clearly needed in the safety net of Milwaukee.
Founders gave it MacCanon Brown’s name (against her wishes) in 2014, to recognize her legacy of effective leadership in serving Milwaukee’s most vulnerable residents.
In February of 2015 the MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary was invited by the Pastor and Church Council of Hephatha Lutheran Church at 18th and Locust to have the full use of the entire church facility on Fridays for outreach. Sister MacCanon was given keys and the code to the alarm system. At the onset, MBHS volunteers simply offered a safe space with table games and clothing distribution. We grew our constituency by driving the neighborhood weekly and inviting people through the car window.
Meanwhile we developed our own team of MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary volunteer nurses, registered with the State, who began taking turns being there on Fridays. In addition to blood pressure checks, nurses engage in personable conversations about medical concerns and offer guidance about health care access.
Our Friday programming has grown during these four years to include basic reading and math, legal assistance with landlord/tenant issues, EmployMKE, Tai Chi, Molina Healthcare, 12-Step AA meetings, beauticians, jewelry making, wood burning, drumming circles, and more.
After two years of negotiation, on December 30, 2016, we purchased the Eschweiler-designed five-story former warehouse at 2461 W. Center St., seeking to develop it into a community center offering a maximum range of crucially needed daytime solutions for Milwaukee’s most vulnerable residents. The purchase price was $175,000.
Phase One of 1st floor construction of the Welcome Center began on October 7, 2019, with a $509,200 price tag. MBHS has enough start-up funding to begin the work, and we anticipate some work will be donated or discounted. A capital fund campaign is underway to support this project. Since the building purchase in December of 2016, MBHS has raised $585,045 for the Building Fund without any loans involved. Expenses have included the building purchase, entire roof replacement, numerous other processes plus costs of developing our Green Space.
The first floor will offer a welcoming intake/registration area, bathroom/shower units, clothing distribution, community-building, and a violence-free gathering space to assist individuals in advancing their life situations. Eventual first floor development will include access to a maximum scope of life-saving resources including medical and mental health services, a full kitchen and dining area offering a nutritious meal program and offices.
Further phases of the Expansion Project will focus on the 2nd – 5th floors of the building. Plans are underway to create
(1) an Employment Floor (4th floor) with a Maker Space, and in-house industry, and other employability support;
(2) a Medical Floor (2nd floor) with a free health care clinic, a free vision clinic, a foot-care clinic, and other medical support services;
(3) an Interior Urban Agriculture Floor (3rd floor) that provides an aquaponics system with table-top gardens in collaboration with MSOE;
(4) a Public Forum Floor (5th floor) with meeting rooms and an auditorium to improve community solidarity.
Since the building purchase on December 30, 2016 MBHS has been offering a "Doorway Ministry"
out of the back door of its Center St. facility.
Every Tuesday and Thursday from 11a.m. – 1 p.m. we offer clothing; fresh produce, household items, furniture, bicycles, and more.
According to close residents, the neighborhood had no bikes before MBHS came.
Many of the doorway ministry guests appear undernourished and are clearly food-scarce. We have been doing the door-way ministry year round.
In winter months, this space has only a ceiling-mounted heater. Our numbers keep growing. Lately attendance is between 100 - 150 persons each day the doorway ministry is open.
MBHS delivers a unique, nationally-recognized model, with those we serve taking leadership roles and engaging in decision making.
We function as a community in which persons who are homeless or at risk of homelessness work side-by-side with other volunteers from diverse backgrounds, serving in solidarity as equals.
The Green Space adjacent to our building is being developed. Picnic tables, an equipment shed, garden beds and mini-libraries have been built.
The City of Milwaukee has recently sold to MBHS the lots at 2652-2658 N. 24th Place, eastwards across the street from the Sanctuary and we are "farming” those lots. This is a collaboration with Groundworks Milwaukee and MSOE. To date, 24 large raised garden beds have been prepared for planting. Because MBHS is located in a "food desert," food production is among our priorities, bringing with it the many aspects which are life-saving and have a firm grip on sustainability.
Currently we have over 800 volunteers who are actively engaged in a variety of roles. Our partnerships with schools of learning, diverse faith communities and community organizations has grown to more than 80. We sustain six part time staff plus contractual agreements with an accountant and a grant writer.
So far, our HR and infrastructure have focused on offering two out-reach events at Hephatha Lutheran Church per week and two doorway ministry events per week. The average number of lives impacted by MBHS out-reach per week is 250. When the Welcome Center is completed, service delivery structure will be reconfigured.
We are a solidarity transformational community. We have done so much, and we have a great deal more to do. If you are moved to contribute your time, talent, or treasure to helping the most vulnerable in Milwaukee, we would welcome you in any capacity. We also encourage you to let others know about our life-saving work. Visit our website at: www.mbsanctuary.org
Our organization is an audited 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. MBHS maintains a contractual relationship with a respected accounting firm. Financial contributions are tax deductible as allowed by the extent of the law. Letters of acknowledgment are guaranteed.
[Note: We would like to thank Photographer Jill Moore for her beautiful photos. Many of the photos on this site were taken by Ms. Moore.]