Not a lot has changed down at Housak Park since the end of summer but there could be some movement Sunday or Monday for the homeless population, according to one person living there.
Mary Beyer joined La Crosse Talk PM on Thursday to discuss what it’s been like for those living in tents by the Mississippi River and what they’re going to do when it gets too cold to do so — which has already started.
Beyer said she had her identity stolen, which forced her to live in a tent in Houska the past six months. She also noted, before that, she’d been a longtime volunteer with organizations that have helped the homeless.
In regards to the city’s plans, she said those without shelter could be moved out of the park by Monday to get them indoors. It still seems to make some there nervous.
“They’re limiting what they can bring to one large suitcase and one backpack only, and that they’ll store our other things,” she said. “I’ve also heard multiple times that whatever is left behind is getting thrown in the garbage. This has happened to them over and over.”
“They would love us to go to the (Catholic Charities) Warming Center. They have space available, but the people are afraid to leave what little they own. Imagine. What’s in these tents down here, that’s everything they own.”
The city council met in closed session Thursday to discuss approving $700,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to rent space over winter for the 120-130 homeless living in La Crosse.
With that, however, Beyer noted there is always the threat that, whatever the city plans to do, it won’t work out for some, putting them — whether that’s forced or voluntary — back to living on the streets.
“If they leave their tents, they come back after a few days — it didn’t work out, whatever the situation is — everything they’ve accumulated is now gone,” Beyer said. “And for the working poor, that’s very upsetting, because they’re working to get an apartment, a permanent place to be. Everyone down there wants down there. Everyone.”
Beyer said they appreciate all the help they can get and she likes the city’s plan to move a lot of people into motel rooms through winter but there are still some issues.
“Decisions are made without consulting anyone who is actually living down there and can speak for the people on their behalf,” she said.
La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds noted Monday on WIZM that the city was very close to hiring a homeless coordinator, which could resolve that gap between those living unsheltered and entities trying to help. Reynolds also discussed many other failings by political leaders in helping the homeless population.
For Beyer, most of the issue for those at Houska, and elsewhere, revolved around them losing little possessions they have for one reason or another.
“As soon as they leave their tent unguarded, someone is going to steal them,” she said. “And yes, it’s homeless stealing from the homeless, but it causes a lot of tension, stress, and they don’t want to leave what little they have left.”