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City buys south-side motel as part of “bridge housing” plan for homeless

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The city of La Crosse is buying a long-time motel on Highway 35 to provide shelter for homeless people on a temporary basis.     

During a special meeting, the city council voted Tuesday night in favor of acquiring the Maple Grove Motel on Mormon Coulee Road, as a bridge-housing site. Maple Grove opened in the 1940s and was recently offered for sale. 

Neighbors of the motel spoke to the council, expressing worries about safety and effects on the quiet, family-friendly atmosphere of that area. 

La Crosse Police Chief Shawn Kudron said having the homeless residents together in a centralized spot would be preferable to having them scattered throughout the city.

“We have dealt with this population for years when they have been fragmented or dispersed in many different locations,” Kudron said. “It also becomes difficult in connecting service providers in the most appropriate ways.”    

The chief says officers have been called about 100 times a month to the Econolodge this winter, responding to calls of trouble among people who have been staying there after being moved from Houska Park. The city spent $700,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding this fall to help those who had been staying outside in Houska get shelter at the Econolodge.

The approval to purchase Maple Grove comes after a city-county effort to buy the Chamber of Commerce building near downtown La Crosse. Upon hearing that news, however, a private buyer came forward and purchased the building with a $2.1 million cash offer.

La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds said city leaders have been turned down at other places. He also argued that the private purchase of the Chamber of Commerce office was arranged specifically to prevent the city and county from buying it.

“That was purchased to keep us from moving there,” says Reynolds. “We had another option that there was a great level of resistance by the owner. We have explored virtually every option that I can possibly imagine at this point.”

The resolution to buy Maple Grove originally called on spending up to $1.2 million.

That amount was increased to $1.5 million, to include renovation and maintenance expenses. The La Crosse Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department says the motel could be used for two or three years for the temporary shelter.

             

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Kent Porter

    February 23, 2022 at 4:14 pm

    AS I SEE IT ; JUST KICKIN THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD AGAIN !!!!!!!! How about getting these homeless folks off of CRACK , METH , HEROIN , AND VODKA , Get them into TECH SCHOOL to learn a trade , That 1.2 million Dollars could of done that !!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. CJ

    February 23, 2022 at 4:37 pm

    The issue needs to be managed now…..before it becomes unmanageable. I have read numerous articles on dispersing the unsheltered into different locations. There is success when the unsheltered have a larger number of community citizens in their apartment complexes to live near and learn from. There is no easy solution….but Houska should not be used again this summer for camping. Humans are better sheltered in a motel than out into the elements. Just my opinion.

    • Gary Pomplun

      March 1, 2022 at 10:29 am

      Just keep throwing money at it.
      City should have addressed this
      long ago.My money tree is dead.
      Been in the same house for 43
      Years. My street has never been redone.so the beat goes on.
      Hey,on 100,000 home you will ONLY have to pay an extra $25 per year. On and on and on.Is there something called put a freeze on spending?

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