Campaign looks to provide 100 Nights of Shelter in Chippewa County

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 9:32 PM CST
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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -100 nights with a place to go to get out of the cold. That’s the goal of one campaign looking to help unsheltered community members during the winter season.

Since 2014, there hasn’t been a shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Chippewa County. Motel vouchers are a way one nonprofit is working to fill the gap.

Right now that group is asking for the community’s help to provide 100 nights of shelter.

At the L.E. Phillips Career Development Center Outreach Office in Chippewa Falls, staff say they’ve seen a growing need for their services.

“We’ve seen an uptick in food pantry usage, more people looking for warm winter clothes, things like that, so since the pandemic, we’ve seen probably almost 200% growth in our homeless population,” said Jennifer Barrett, the outreach director.

Barrett said they’ve helped more than 500 different families last year with services like rental assistance, transportation and emergency shelter.

“Chippewa County does not have a homeless shelter, so we provide hotel vouchers on an emergency basis to those who may need it who are out in the elements--people who are homeless,” Barrett said. “We are looking to be able to supply 100 nights.”

Barrett said they partner with three hotels each one located in a different community in Chippewa County. The average cost of one stay for the nonprofit is $80 a night.

While the campaign’s main focus is on shelter during the winter months, Barrett said: “We’re always looking for donations for motel vouchers. That’s our only source for shelter.”

In order to use those vouchers to help more people, in 2016, another group formed called Hope Village.

“We thought if we could build a tiny house or two, we could house single men and women and then the motel vouchers could be used for larger families,” said Michael Cohoon, the director of Hope Village.

So far, Hope Village has built 11 of these homes in Chippewa County.

Cohoon said the need for their services has consistently gone up since 2020.

“We deal with a lot people here at Hope Village who just they became one paycheck away from being homeless because of perhaps a health situation or a situation with a vehicle breaking down or a situation with their housing,” Cohoon said.

Together these two groups are working to help meet the needs of those impacted by homelessness in Chippewa County.

In addition to donations for the motel vouchers, the L.E. Phillips CDC Outreach Office said some other major needs right now include winter boots, coats and blankets.

Hope Village is currently working to raise $2.7 million to build more tiny homes. It also said it is in need of more volunteers to help with its community center.