In a Nutshell
What: With a capital campaign bridge loan from IFF, Serenity Inns is developing a new residential treatment facility that will enable the organization to provide more intensive substance use disorder treatment to more men in Milwaukee annually, while also accessing Medicaid subsidies for services provided for the first time in the organization’s nearly 20-year history.
Sectors: Housing, Health Care
Location: Milwaukee, WI (Midtown)
Size: 7,000 square feet
Cost: $2.5 million
Funding Sources: The Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation and individual donors
IFF Support: $2.3 million loan closed in December 2023
Design: Allume Architects
General Contractor: Catalyst Construction Company
Owner’s Representative: Plunkett Raysich Architects, LLP (Marty Choren)
Impact: Additional 60 people provided with wraparound services by Serenity Inns annually to treat substance use disorder
“Most of the time the ‘nice’ facilities for people in need of treatment for substance use disorder are in the suburbs,” says Kenneth Ginlack. “But where you’re born and where you live shouldn’t determine whether you have access to the type of high-quality, holistic treatment needed to overcome substance use disorder; everyone deserves that.”
Thanks to Serenity Inns, the nonprofit Ginlack leads as CEO, more residents in the City of Milwaukee will soon have access to just that. Later this year, the organization will open a new, 7,000-square-foot state-of-the-art treatment center that will serve up to 16 men at a time in the first steps of their journey to recovery. In addition to increasing the capacity of the organization’s longstanding residential treatment program, the new facility will enable Serenity Inns to receive Medicaid subsidies for the first time in its nearly 20-year history – positioning the nonprofit for continued growth.
“What we’re developing is in the Midtown neighborhood, right in the heart of Milwaukee, and it’s going to offer everything needed to treat not just the substance use disorder among the men we serve, but the whole person,” says Ginlack. “There’s been a sharp increase in opioid deaths, particularly in the African American community, and I’m just happy that we’re going to be able to give more people the opportunity to recover. Sixty additional clients served each year may sound small, but it’s very significant when you consider how many of those people are likely to overdose without access to treatment.”
Launched in 2002 as a grassroots effort by a group of Lutheran churches in Milwaukee, Serenity Inns has grown into a full-service provider equipped to treat those working to overcome substance use disorder. The organization offers 18 months of intensive wraparound support to clients that begins with residential treatment, followed by transitional and independent living programs that prepare participants to maintain their sobriety and help them build life skills like money management. Serenity Inns also offers outpatient services at an “alumni house” for residents who have completed programming at the organization’s residential treatment facility.
As part of the residential treatment process, each participant engages in community-based recovery meetings, one-on-one counseling, and group counseling, among other activities. For those who graduate from Serenity Inns’ three-phase program, the organization offers stable, affordable housing in a supportive sober living environment at its 14-bed alumni house. Together, the continuum of services is designed to address participants’ physical, social, emotional, financial, and spiritual health needs, equipping them with the tools needed to recover and thrive in the next phase of their lives.
“Where you’re born and where you live shouldn’t determine whether you have access to the type of high-quality, holistic treatment needed to overcome substance use disorder; everyone deserves that.”
While Serenity Inns has successfully treated more than 650 clients since its founding, the new facility represents an inflection point for the organization. As the opioid epidemic has swept across the country, the organization’s capacity to provide treatment to Milwaukeeans has been strained. Due to limited space, Serenity Inns currently turns away 4-5 people every day who are seeking treatment.
With its new facility, the organization will attain licensing as a “Community-Based Residential Facility” that enables it to receive Medicaid subsidies. This funding will free up philanthropic dollars to support Serenity Inns’ continued expansion– enabling it to grow its capacity to meet the local need for substance use disorder treatment. At the same time, Serenity Inns will be able to provide more intensive care for those enrolled in its programs, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay for treatment.
“We never want to turn down an individual for treatment because they don’t have insurance,” says Ginlack. “Being able to bill Medicaid is going to enable us to set aside the money we’re already raising to cover the cost of treatment for participants without insurance while we work with them to obtain it. That’s important too, because a holistic approach to treatment means they need to be able to access primary medical care, dental services, and other supports that impact their whole wellbeing.”
Compounding the positive impact of the project is the new facility itself. Located across the street from the organization’s current residential treatment center on two previously vacant lots acquired from the City of Milwaukee, the new building will be packed with amenities that support the recovery process. In addition to bedrooms and bathrooms for clients, the facility will include a fitness room, library, and community classroom – none of which are available in its current space – as well as a reception area, conference room, lounge waiting area, warming kitchen, and a dining/meeting area for the organization to more comfortably host its longstanding dinner fellowship program that connects program participants with volunteers.
“Dinner fellowship has been a big component of our program since day one,” explains Ginlack. “Volunteers provide meals 365 days per year and then eat with our clients. It has a powerful impact in that it gives those working toward recovery a chance to build relationships with their peers and the volunteers while also breaking down the stigma that exists around substance use disorder. Some of the guys we serve have never had an opportunity to sit down for dinner at a table each night and just have a conversation from the heart.”
To finance the $3 million project, Serenity Inns turned to IFF for a $2.3 million bridge loan that enabled the organization to proceed with its plans more quickly while executing a capital campaign. After several years of planning, Serenity Inns broke ground on the new facility in September, with WBE-certified Allume Architects, general contractor Catalyst Construction, and owner’s representative Marty Choren supporting the development.
“Accessing financing from IFF gave us the ability to get to a solution – a new, larger facility – more quickly than we would have been able to otherwise. Some people suggested we wait until we’d raised the rest of the money needed for the project, but people are dying every day, and the community needs this new facility now. It represents hope.
Once construction is complete this fall, Serenity Inns plans to repurpose its existing residential treatment facility as an outpatient clinic and as a space to meet with and assist the families of men in recovery. The current residential treatment facility will also serve as a meeting place for the organization’s alumni to socialize, interact with the Serenity Inns staff, and to support one another in recovery – strengthening the continuum of support the nonprofit is able to provide to Milwaukeeans impacted by substance use disorder.
“Accessing financing from IFF gave us the ability to get to a solution – a new, larger facility – more quickly than we would have been able to otherwise,” says Ginlack. “Some people suggested we wait until we’d raised the rest of the money needed for the project, but people are dying every day, and the community needs this new facility now. It represents hope.”