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Multiple La Crosse organizations working to assist homeless population

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 5:55 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - Homelessness is an ever-evolving problem in La Crosse, but a variety of organizations are looking to help the unsheltered.

St. Clare Health Mission conducts weekly trips to homeless shelters and common gathering places like Houska Park to provide health care.

Dr. Sarah Brown is a mobile medicine physician with the Health Mission, who says the need for health care is starting to outpace the available resources.

“Every patient who I’ve met who is homeless or housing insecure has medical needs,” Brown said. “We don’t have enough time to adequately care for our homeless patients.”

The best way for the care level to improve is if the number of those in need goes down.

According to Peter Gorski of Coulee Tenants United, that’s not going to happen with the way housing costs are trending.

“We need to really decrease their rent burden, rent and housing costs are the highest portion of a household budget,” Gorski explained. “We really need to address this crisis in some systemic manner via some kind of City and County programming.”

If you’re one of those people who can’t afford rent prices, there is help out there in the community.

That includes housing units which can be rented through Couleecap, however units fill up quickly once they become available.

“There’s a large demand from individuals that are unsheltered, there’s also a large demand from individuals that may be staying with family or friends,” Couleecap Assistant Department Director Becky Koske detailed. “There is a great need for housing, a great need for affordable housing.”

The Salvation Army of La Crosse also provides housing through its shelter, but future plans for a larger shelter may also pave the way for more housing opportunities.

“We’re hoping we can work with the County to purchase the lot behind us and build a brand-new shelter on that site,” Social Services Director Krista Coey said. “What this would do is allow us to tear down our current site and build transitional housing units.”

With so many organizations assisting the homeless and different plans being developed, La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds says the City needs to take an active role in helping to coordinate solutions.

“For a long time we’ve had a lot of great service agencies that have been doing incredible work but have been nibbling around the edges of the problem,” Reynolds expressed. “There just hasn’t been any leadership within City Hall, our goal is to make sure that everybody’s working and moving in the same direction.”

Reynolds believes the new Homeless Coordinator position within the City will provide the leadership that is needed to get results.

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