The Lifeboat Foundation began as a mission initiative of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Rhinelander, in February 2014. It was discovered that the communities of northern Wisconsin, known as the northwoods, had a youth homelessness problem that had few resources to address.
Local community organizations were invited to be part of the Task Group and these were very helpful in offering reports of their experiences with homeless youth and local statistics on homeless and at-risk youth.
The Lifeboat Foundation of Wisconsin, a nonprofit, was incorporated in March 2015 funded by an anonymous donation. The incorporating document states that it was:
“…established to develop transformational programs that fill gaps in community services for homeless or at-risk young people, specifically aged between 16-25 years old, with mutually agreed, tailor-made programs which give the young people access to housing, learning, personal development, training and employment opportunities in line with their needs and goals.”
The original dream was to buy and renovate a building big enough to include up to twenty self-contained, apartments for homeless youth along with support services. Over time it became clear that the costs of the dream were unlikely to be supported by a community already suffering from donation fatigue.
In any case, expert fundraisers advised that major donors would want to see if the principles of the project had been put into practice before gifting. The original thinking did not lend itself to a small test project.
We had to ask ourselves whether there was another way of looking at the problem.
After some months hiatus, a solution was discovered – The Host Home Program.