WEAU | Eau Claire, Wisconsin | News

Eau Claire sees rise in first time homeless

(WEAU) - While we've been lucky with mild weather lately, the winter cold will hit soon, and that means more homeless people will be seeking shelter.

A new survey shows that here in Eau Claire, more people are homeless for the first time.

This snapshot survey done in October, surveyed about 19 thousand people who were served at hope gospel mission and more than 100 other organizations in North America.

Here in Eau Claire, Hope Gospel Mission says they surveyed about 20 people who were staying in their facility.

Everyone surveyed locally described themselves as homeless.

Whether it’s getting a hot meal at the Community Table or trying to get back on your feet with hope gospel mission.

More people in Eau Claire are homeless for the first time.

"Homelessness is more of a symptom of a greater problem, often time’s homelessness is due to addiction or work related issues or mental illness,” said Chris Hedlund, Hope Gospel Mission Program Director.

Hedlund says about 85% of people who come to hope gospel either have an addiction or financial problems, especially those new to the lifestyle.

"They move to the area for work that didn't work out is a popular one or they had a job and they lose it and can't find another one,” said Hedlund.

He says in this economy, a lot of businesses are offering only part-time job, so more people are forced to take on two.

Even at the Community Table the executive director says she's even seeing an increase in people who are being homeless for the first time.

"89% of people who are eating here are eating here because they’re in real financial difficulty," said Keniston.

Keniston says many young adults are new to being homeless because their parents don't want to support them anymore.

She also says the numbers usually go down this time of year because people can't travel in the cold for food, but they haven't.

"For a lot of people if they're working part-time jobs that missing one day of work because I'm sick takes a real bit out of your financial means for the month," said Keniston.

Both organizations, along with Sojourner House and beacon House are trying to help those in the community.

By giving them that hope they'll find a job and get back on their feet.

"If we hand out government dollars and entitlement programs, then more people are going to be on them and the problem of homelessness is going to become greater," said Hedlund.

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