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Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Katie Witz, Recovery Housing Case Manager

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The city of Milwaukee has been working for years to reduce homelessness. According to the city’s Point in Time count from January 23, 2019, there were 885 people on the streets or in shelters. That’s a significant reduction from the 1,521 people the same count found just a few years earlier in January 2015.

The Guest House in Milwaukee is one of the places helping in the effort. The agency’s motto is “More than Shelter,” and it aims to provide housing, education and services to homeless people looking to change their lives.

And that’s where Katie Witz comes in. She’s the Recovery Housing Clinical Case Manager at Guest House. Her former clients say she’s not just getting people off of the streets. She’s giving them their lives back.

“She’s like a hero,” said John Kowalski, a former Guest House resident.

Kowalski spent five years on the streets of Milwaukee, struggling with addiction. After going through Witz’s program, he is sober and now volunteer’s in the kitchen at the Guest House.

“I just find whatever's donated and throw together a pot luck kind of lunch. And just make the guys happy,” Kowalski said.

He has a pantry full of staples, and feeding people makes him happy, too. He said he just got tired of the struggles of life on the streets, and Witz helped him make changes.

“My clients are also brothers, sons, fathers,” Witz said. “And they are absolutely deserving of dignity and respect, just like you and I are.”

Witz has 22 men in her program at one time, helping them with mental health and addiction, but she also focuses on practical skills, too. She helps them write resumes and make budgets. Her philosophy is three-fold. She breaks it down into three categories: self-care for addition and mental health, individual skills, and her favorite, wellness

But she says she learns things from them, too.

“They all have a wealth of experience, a wealth of wisdom and I'm humbled every day,” she said.

Witz may be humble about the help she gives, but Kowalski said she gave him the most important gift.

“Um... gee,” he said with a pause. “How to be human again.”

Tha’t’s something Witz has heard before.

“Once after we went to the art museum, two of the guys said, thank you for bringing me here, I feel normal again,” she said.

Kowalksi said Witz made him feel like he was capable of turning his life around.

“You're always comfortable around her,” Kowalski said. “She's just got that air about her.”

It’s success stories like Kowalski’s that keep Witz going.

“I am recharged. I am energized,” she said. “I get to see guys along their journey of recovery.”

If you have a suggestion for “Natalie’s Everyday Heroes,” send an email to nshepherd@cbs58.com, or find Natalie on Facebook and send a message. Tell us about someone doing good work in your community.

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