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Governor recognizes work of pastor leading homeless shelter in Baraboo

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BARABOO (WKOW) -- Governor Tony Evers is paying special recognition to a Baraboo pastor, who's made it his mission to help his community.

Rev. Dave Mowers has led the charge to find a new homeless shelter for his community after the only one in the area closed in 2018.

"I felt like it was something that I could do that my faith compelled me to do," Mowers told 27 News.

Mowers says 70 percent of Wisconsin's homeless population lives in rural areas, so the Sauk County community has stepped up to help him create a brand-new non-profit to tackle homelessness.

"It's not our shelter, this is the community shelter," he said. "It's not really us that made this possible. It's the way the community has pulled together around it that's made it possible."

Gov. Evers is recognizing Mowers' work in his 2020 State of the State speech. It's an honor for the pastor, who never expected he'd become Baraboo's homeless advocate.

"Just to get the governor's attention for a moment, to have him shine that bright spotlight of the State of the State on this topic, is a win and an improvement," Mowers said.

The governor has been urging lawmakers to pass a series of bills to fight homelessness. Last year, the Assembly approved the entire package. The Senate approved one measure this week, which provides $500,000 in each of the next two years for area shelters.

The Senate has yet to vote on the other seven, which could wind up in limbo because Republicans have said they don't support the full package.

"We would, of course, take any help we could get from state government," Mowers said.

For now, the organizers of Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter will rely on the money and hard work of their generous community. So far, they've brought in more than $100,000 for the project. Plus, businesses are donating furniture, products and their time to get the work done and fill the new facility.

The shelter will have room for up to 30 beds for men, women and children, which is rare, especially in rural areas.

Mowers believes the governor's attention to homeless issues will help the greater community better understand what it means to be homeless in Wisconsin.

"People think it looks like panhandlers on State Street in Madison. And in rural Wisconsin, it largely does not look like that. It looks like families with kids. And a lot of folks just don't realize that," Mowers said.

The shelter is expected to be ready in spring.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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