The helping hand on Ninth Street
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Mitch Laputka sits on the steps outside of St. Benedict the Moor. The church doors are locked and he has just been released from Milwaukee County’s House of Correction after two months.
“I’ve come here for the meal program,” Laputka said.
He has been coming to St. Ben’s for the past seven years. “When it comes down to St. Ben’s, this is the one church that helps those who are in need. The homeless, those who are just getting out of jail, they help a lot of people.”
Located on 1015 N. Ninth St., St. Benedict the Moor provides a range of services to those in need. Volunteers from across the world and religious officials connect with people everyday to help them gain stability.
Since 1968, St. Ben’s has been providing services through the Capuchin Community Services, founded by Capuchin friar Brother Booker Ashe.
From 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. every Sunday through Friday, a line of 300 or more wait to get the one meal St. Ben’s offers to those who visit. During the day, people can come into the front desk area and receive anything from a shower to a birth certificate.
“Every Wednesday we hand out hygiene bags. A person can come in and receive them once a month,” Jose Vera, a postulant for the Franciscan Order at St. Ben’s, said. He is completing his ministry hours to prepare for entering religious life.
Vera spends one night a week at the community meal, and most of his other time at the front desk working ministry hours from 1-5 p.m. During the day there are 10 volunteers who help the people who come in.
“It gets pretty busy on Wednesdays,” Vera said. “About 100 people come in during the day. We provide all of the services that day and help people get glasses for a dollar.”
Ken Stewart has been coming to St. Ben’s for a couple weeks. He has been able to get a pair of glasses and attended the community meal.
“They’re real helpful here,” Stewart said. “I’ve never heard anyone complain.”
To keep track of those who come in, St. Ben’s documents those who visit and use the services. Some restrictions are that visitors are only allowed two showers a week and one hygiene bag per month.
Security guards are also in attendance during the community meal to ensure that safety and peace are kept.
“If a guest comes in drunk or high to the front desk or meal program and are causing a problem, they are told to leave,” Vera said. “It’s not so bad, it happens once or twice a month. If they continue to be a problem, they are banned.”