April 29, 2017
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First Step to close by May 1

Facing revocation, refuge center surrenders license



First Step Services will cease operations on or before May 1.

The nonprofit homeless center was facing heavy criticism and revocation of its refuge license. The organization voluntarily surrendered its refuge license on Wednesday.

First Step was open Wednesday night providing shelter to about a dozen homeless men.

Ald. Jan Michalski, who represents City Council District 3, which includes First Step, said he feels “relief” that the center located at 1017 63rd St. will finally close after nearly 14 years.

“The process isn’t necessarily going to drag on any longer,” Michaslki said. “The City Council voted unanimously to send it to revocation.”

Michalski said the organization acquiesced Wednesday because its leaders “saw the handwriting was on the wall.”

“Now the issue is where do we go from here?” Michalski said. “The need is not gone, but the need wasn’t being met by First Step anyway.”

Michalski said First Step was in a “bad location” and a fresh place for homeless men and women facing substance abuse, food insecurity and temporary lodging is still needed.

“I’ve been calling some people in the community to let them know and every one of them is ecstatic,” Michalski said. Area residents have complained at open meetings of loitering, trash and drug paraphernalia there.

First Step founder and CEO Tracy Krisor said her decision was made after speaking with Deputy City Attorney Matthew Knight.

“I want to be the bigger person. There are way too many people fighting, too many people arguing, too many people getting hurt. There’s become such a division among everyone,” Krisor said. “I’m not turning my back on the homeless and I never will.”

Krisor said she hopes to work with Congregations United to Serve Humanity (CUSH) in the coming years to address homelessness. Still, Wednesday’s decision was difficult.

“Fourteen years of my life I’ve given to helping people. I don’t actually know at this point how to live my life normally without this being an everyday part of my life,” Krisor said. She said she’s “cried out” for help from various local nonprofits over the years, but never received support from them.

“I needed help. It really hurts me. Where was the help?” Krisor said.

Center faced hearing

On Monday, the Kenosha City Council took a major step toward revoking First Step’s license.

The council voted to submit the nonprofit agency’s license to a nonrenewable revocation hearing. That special Licenses and Permits Committee hearing was to take place in the coming weeks. The committee was widely expected to deny the application.

Unlike the Shalom Center, which also aids the homeless, First Step takes in anyone, regardless of mental illness or alcohol/substance abuse.

Krisor was not at Monday’s meeting. First Step receives no city funding.


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