HUMANITY-CENTERED SATURDAY: Jo Wynn helps the homeless, the historically underserved

KENOSHA ⏤ Jo Wynn has served her community for the vast majority of the time she’s lived in it. 

Wynn has lived in Kenosha now for 17 years. Two years into her stay, in 2005, she created her organization, Walkin’ In My Shoes, which serves the homeless population in the city.

She decided to create the organization after her own experience facing homelessness in middle-age.

“As I lived the life of a homeless individual at the age of 51, in a turn of events losing my job, my home and my healthcare benefits,” Wynn recalls in the “My Story” section of the nonprofit’s website, “I was at a point of hopelessness suffering with severe depression, I contemplated ending it all. Instead I packed up what little I had, left Phoenix, Arizona, and moved back to the Midwest to live with family.”

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Work based on own experiences

After going through homelessness herself, Wynn thought that she could do more than the resources already being offered to the community. 

As a result, Walkin’ In My Shoes set out to help not only the homeless population in Kenosha, but also the youth. 

The organization helps people get the assistance they need to get back on their feet again, Wynn said. 

In fact, she helps many of her guests to find new jobs, finish school and enroll in college. 

She also helps out with less common requests.

For example, Wynn recalled, one young man wanted a headstone for his mother. Someone told him that, if anyone in Kenosha would help, “it would be Jo Wynn.” 

As a result, the young man reached out to Wynn, and she was able to help him fundraise all the money for a headstone and then some. 

Not here to enable

Wynn knows that feelings of helplessness are strong when going through homelessness. Her goal is to get her guests to become self-sufficient, as she helps them help themselves. 

“I don’t enable them to rely on us,” Wynn explained. “I’m there to help them get help.” 

Wynn has a lot of success stories. However, without funding, those may wane over time. 

Currently, Walkin’ In My Shoes is an all-volunteer program, and donations are crucial to continuing their efforts. 

Donations needed to continue services

Walkin’ In My Shoes has programs for youth, as well as programs for inmates that have been released from incarceration. Wynn also sees veterans, families and cancer patients, as well as others in need when she is able. 

When working with the youth, the kids know her as “grandma,” she said.

Her work in Kenosha offers instrumental assistance to many different populations. 

“I believe that we should be there to help one another,” Wynn said. 

Next big goal: New building

The organization’s next big goal is to move out of their current building, located at 2211 50th St., for a larger building in order to offer more resources.

Over the last 15 years, Wynn has been able to help more than 7,500 people get into permanent housing through the resource network she’s already built. A new building, she said, would help expand those programs and give her more room to meet with people in need.

Anyone wishing to find out more information about Wynn and Walkin’ In My Shoes, or to possibly donate, can do so by visiting http://walkininmyshoes.org/.

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