The tents have started to go up at Houska Park in La Crosse, as unsheltered people gather there as a “safe space” for the spring and summer.
La Crosse Police, the city’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department and community volunteers have plans to help out those living there for the season.
Houska became a warm-weather site for the homeless last summer. This year the park has officially been designated as a campground.
Mayor Mitch Reynolds said at a news conference Wednesday the city continues to look for bridge housing for the homeless. He said Houska is intended to be a “safe and stable” place for those who choose to live outdoors for now.
“It was a way to prevent them from basically camping out in all the other city parks,” Reynolds said, “and make sure that they would be in a place where they weren’t being harassed, and forced to move their stuff every single night.”
A nonprofit group is offering support services for the campers. City homeless services coordinator Brian Sampson said he has worked with community partners on a weekly basis.
“How can we, as a community, bring those existing resources and services to continue to partner with people and help move people along when it comes to getting ready for housing and finding housing,” Sampson said.
La Crosse Parks director Jay Odegaard said electricity and wash stations will be made available.
The city also moved dog park facilities for the season to Wittenberg Park near I-90 and Hass Park, near Mormon Coulee Road.