City of La Crosse developing plan to address homelessness with La Crosse County

La Crosse Chamber of Commerce building
La Crosse Chamber of Commerce building(WEAU)
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 6:37 PM CST
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - City and County officials in La Crosse are joining together to help those who are dealing with housing insecurity.

The City of La Crosse is currently spending $700,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to rent rooms at the Econo Lodge for homeless people.

The initiative is set to last through March, prompting Mayor Mitch Reynolds to come up with a longer-term plan.

“We have over 100 people housed at the Econo Lodge right now, and in April we need to have another solution for many of those people,” Reynolds said. “Many of them are going to find homes between now and then, but a lot of them aren’t.”

One potential option includes joining with La Crosse County to purchase the current Chamber of Commerce building at 601 7th St N.

Associate County Administrator Jane Klekamp says the proposal includes building a type of housing on the site that currently isn’t available.

“Right now in La Crosse, either the city or the county, there is nothing that is called bridge housing, so this would fill a niche that is currently unfilled in the community,” Klekamp explained. “If it’s approved, there would be apartments built on the parking lot, and it would be a place where people could stay until they find a permanent home.”

The building itself would then become a headquarters for County staff, City staff, and other local agencies who assist the homeless.

“There’s a good amount of building there, so there’s space for various organizations if they would like to be a part of those solutions for our community,” Reynolds added.

The asking price for the building is more than $2 million, which would once again be covered by ARPA money.

Discussions are still in the early stages, but Reynolds says the proposal would be part of his ongoing commitment to help residents who struggle to retain housing.

“You don’t reach an endpoint with homelessness and say okay, we’re done, it’s a continued effort,” Reynolds expressed. “It takes a continued concentration on making sure that not only are you finding solutions, but you’re shepherding people towards positive outcomes.”

Reynolds says there’s no exact timetable on when this plan may be implemented, but approval will be needed from both the La Crosse City Council and County Board of Supervisors.

The City also recently hired a Homeless Services Coordinator, who will not only help with the planning process, but will take input from different agencies and organizations in the community.

La Crosse Chamber of Commerce CEO Neal Zygarlicke could not comment on the sale of the building, or the potential relocation of the chamber’s offices.

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