New City staff, nonprofits assisting La Crosse’s homeless population

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 4:36 PM CST
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - A recently established nonprofit and a new City staff member are joining the effort to help the homeless population in La Crosse.

“What I Need Now” (WINN) was started by Sue Graf to directly support people struggling to find housing.

“We are a mobile mission to unsheltered and homeless people,” Graf detailed. “We provide immediate relief for things that they need such as bottled water, food, socks, hand warmers, gloves, jackets, hats.”

Graf believes connecting with people on a personal level is the best way to give them the help they need.

“Once we can establish a rapport, then we’re able to ask more questions, find out are they seeking permanent shelter, are they just needing an overnight place,” Graf added.

After learning more about a person’s situation, WINN directs them towards the organizations that can assist them best.

That type of collaboration is exactly what La Crosse’s new Homeless Services Coordinator Brian Sampson is trying to establish.

“There’s not one agency or one partner that can do it all, we all need to come to the table together,” Sampson said. “We all have a very important role to play, and so it’s just figuring out what does that look like, and how can we all help one another.”

The position was created by the City to provide direct leadership over homeless assistance.

Sampson says there are many factors that can cause homelessness, but securing housing is the first step to treating those issues.

“That’s their number one priority is where am I going to lay my head tonight,” Sampson explained. “If they’re trying to figure that out, how can a person then work on addiction, or mental health, or trauma, or any of that.”

Sampson doesn’t think a single project will end homelessness, saying individualized solutions are going to be needed for each person.

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