Star Journal Report

The lights are on after school at the KIN Rhinelander drop-in center for youth. Located on Brown Street, the program is moving down the street to a larger facility in February to accommodate more students looking for a place to hang out.

On a mission


The phrase, “hidden in plain sight” is often used to describe the youth homeless population. There are no youth living in cardboard boxes on Rhinelander city streets, yet a retired Rhinelander pastor said he knows a homelessness problem exists in the Northwoods.

Chris Hucker was part of a mission initiative which began at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Rhinelander and initially broached the subject in 2014.

“Statistics on homeless youth were few and far between,” Hucker said. “But all the organizations we talked to said, ‘Oh yes, there’s a homelessness problem for youth in the area.’”

Homeless for rural youth can mean “couch surfing,” or moving from friend to friend, relative to relative as a family or as an individual. The at-risk population includes youth who have problems at home, parents who are unable to care for them or get them to school regularly.

A task group was assembled and a feasibility study began. The church initiative evolved into The Lifeboat Foundation of Wisconsin, a nonprofit incorporated to “…develop programs that fill gaps in community services for homeless or at-risk young people, specifically aged 16-25.”

Those gaps in community services exist because youth don’t fit the definition of homeless, Hucker explained. He said Lifeboat was hoping to create a homeless unit that was not a shelter but a long-term housing unit for youth in Rhinelander. After realizing the cost would be in the $3 million range, another option was sought.

There is a little-known federal law, the McKinney-Vento Act that guarantees all children the right to an education, including homeless youth.

“Lifeboat,” Hucker said, “is only concerned with the youth who want an education.”

KIN Rhinelander is an after school drop-in center located on Brown Street. Hucker says KIN regularly sees 25 youth, and more who come and go. Maybe they have problems at home, or don’t want to go home after school or need a place of safety. KIN is moving down the street, to a larger facility to accommodate more drop-ins.

“All would be considered at risk or homeless,” Hucker said. “They are more at-risk than homeless, but if they were in a suburban area they would be homeless. It’s just the way rural areas manage.”

What isn’t available to these kids is a safe place to spend the night and transportation to school. But Lifeboat has a plan.

Earlier this month the Homeless and At-Risk Youth Network Initiative met for the first time. Representatives from the Salvation Army, Forward Services, KIN Rhinelander, School District of Rhinelander and the Lifeboat Foundation met to discuss the increasing problems of youth homelessness and those at-risk of becoming homeless in Rhinelander. The Lifeboat Foundation explained plans for Host Home accommodations for at-risk and homeless young people.

“It’s not foster care, there’s no breakup of the family.” said Hucker. “Say you have a child you cannot handle at home. How about they go to a selected host home where they can get shelter, safety, mentorship, travel to school and food—all by a mentor who just wants to give back to society. It’s a problem that’s been taken off your plate, parent. And the child doesn’t have to worry about those things and can focus on getting an education.”

There are currently two homes getting prepared to be host homes, and Hucker said he expects others in the coming months. They will, he said, be another piece of the puzzle to solving youth homelessness in the Northwoods.

Homeless and At-Risk Youth Network Initiative

The first meeting of the Homeless and At-Risk Youth Network Initiative took place on January 12, at The Days Inn, N. Stevens Street in Rhinelander.

Representatives from Salvation Army, Forward Services, KIN Rhinelander, Rhinelander School District, and The Lifeboat Foundation were present to discuss the increasing problems of youth homelessness and those at-risk of becoming homeless in Rhinelander.  Although we do not see youth in cardboard boxes on our local streets all representatives agreed that we have a hidden problem.  Rhinelader School District, through the Homeless Liaison, Mary Rudis, and KIN Rhinelander, who operate an out of school hours drop in center on Brown Street, gave the meeting recent case examples of homeless and at-risk youth.

The latest figures (2013-2014) reported by homeless liaison officers from public schools across US reported 1-3 million cases of homeless and at-risk youth in their schools.  This was a 7% increase nationally over the previous year and 100% increase since 2007.  The statistics indicate that these homeless or at-risk youth are 87% more likely to drop out of school when education is the route to avoid homelessness in the first place.

The representatives present at the meeting shared their stories and future plans to help the homeless and at-risk youth in Rhinelander.  KIN is moving to larger premises in February to cope with the ever increasing number of young people who visit their drop-in services on Brown Street. The Lifeboat Foundation outlined its plans to offer a scheme of Host Home accommodation for homeless and at-risk youth that will take effect over the next few months.

The next meeting of the Initiative is planned for March 9 at the new KIN premises on Brown Street.

Lifeboat Foundation Sets Sail With New Initiative

At the Board of Directors Meeting on December 2, 2016, the CEO, Chris Hucker, gave his first report and recommendations.  His report was followed by a resolution being passed by the Board to support the CEO proceeding with meetings, planning, and seeking partnerships, toward the establishment of a Rhinelander Host Home Program for homeless and at-risk youth. Chris is in the process of bringing organizations together who have active interests in helping homeless and at-risk youth in Rhinelander, with a view to create a Youth Network Initiative.

Board President and CEO moves back to the UK

The Board of Directors appointed Chris Hucker as the President and Chief Executive Officer for The Lifeboat Foundation as of September 1st, 2016.  Chris had been serving on the Board of Directors since incorporation in March 2015 and retired as pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Rhinelander, Wisconsin at the end of August 2016.

Chris had senior management experience prior to becoming a pastor while being employed in national companies in UK. Other than his fifteen years as an ordained pastor, Chris holds Master’s level degrees in Law, theology, a doctorate in ministry, and Fund Development Management and Leadership Certificate from University of Wisconsin, Superior, Center for Continuing Education 2015/2016.

In June of 2017 Chris resigned to move with his wife back to the UK.  Merlin Van Buren Chairman of the Board of Directors has assumed the responsibilities of President and CEO.


MAP For Non Profits Becomes Our Fiscal Sponsor

An agreement has been signed between The Lifeboat Foundation and MAP For Non Profits in St. Paul, Minnesota for MAP to be our fiscal sponsor.  This is an agreement where MAP, who are a registered 501(c)(3) IRS entity, will receive donations on our behalf and report them to IRS and send official acknowledgements to the donors to comply with tax needs.  For non profits who do not have the time, money, or staff to handle taxation and accounting or not at the stage in project development, fiscal sponsorship should be seriously be considered.

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