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“How are we okay with this?” Gundersen staffer reports to La Crosse city committee on homeless staying at Houska Park



Putting homeless people together in one city park is better than having them all over La Crosse…but not much better.  That’s one of the observations made by a consultant from Gundersen who makes regular visits to the homeless camp at Houska Park. 

Sandy Brekke tells the city’s human rights commission that conditions at Houska are “inhumane,” but they would be that way no matter where the homeless gather.

“There’s no refrigeration, so we’ve got people eating questionable food,” Brekke says. “I’ve got photos of tents that are sitting in mud puddles.”

Brekke, who’s a consultant with the Office of Population Health at Gundersen, says homelessness in the community is a solvable issue, and city leaders need to make it a priority.

The city of La Crosse has designated Houska Park, along the Mississippi, as a common campground for homeless people throughout the summer. During colder months, they had been staying at the EconoLodge motel, and Brekke says people were doing better indoors because they could actually sleep.

“How are we okay with this?” she asks. “This is the grossest human psychological experiment on the earth, like to…have people try to survive.”

Brekke tells commission members that Houska has become the “epicenter” of “failed systems” in the city.  She quotes statistics showing that people who are homeless for long periods of time are more likely to die in their 50’s than the average American, who lives past 70.

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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  1. R head

    July 7, 2022 at 12:06 pm

    Tho should camp at Mitch’s house

    • Yvonne

      July 9, 2022 at 7:26 pm

      Take some of the $$$$ from what Biden and Co. gave La Crosse Wisconsin and build a homeless shelter (home) out in the country, where they can grow their own food, clean their own rooms and cook their own food. The Salvation Army had a solution but our incompetent Mayor did not take it into consideration.

  2. Cory R Onsrud

    July 9, 2022 at 8:26 am

    I agree. I like how our “community”,or should I say people that don’t have a fucking clue come together and talk about homelessness, suicide prevention(what that is I don’t know) just so they can pat themselves on the back. But in reality….talk,talk,talk. Nothing’s ever really solved. Just some publicity for the sake of…well, we’re trying, look at us! Pathetic

  3. Timothy Bouzek

    July 9, 2022 at 9:55 am

    Than why doesn’t Gundersen offer free inpatient treatment for addiction? They wanna run their mouths like they got answers. Stfu. If those people don’t wanna get their lives together hopefully they drown in their puddles. Open up a rehab center and offer free recovery programs.

  4. Mayor of the Northside kent

    July 9, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    Not good I had a friend that went to a homeless camp in.milwaukee and told the. Homeless to come to lacrosse. Free food free camping on the Mississippi free motel rooms in the winter. He said 100 of them packed up and headed to lacrosse guess mayor mitch will have to rent out the Radisson motel this winter.

  5. Marie

    July 9, 2022 at 12:34 pm

    Some people are actually choosing to be homeless, I know somme of them. I hope the people that eventually get help actually want it.

  6. John

    July 9, 2022 at 3:20 pm

    The mayor has made this city a magnet for homeless people.i dont think the tax payers should be responsible for people who are flocking here.

  7. Fsm

    July 9, 2022 at 4:58 pm

    If the consultant says it’s a solvable problem, why doesn’t she kindly give us her expert advise and money to solve it

  8. T props

    July 9, 2022 at 9:33 pm

    Why is it everyone else’s problem but not theirs? It will always be a battle but the more u give the more they take.

  9. Colleen Johnson

    July 10, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    Sandy Brekke is a local hero. She puts her all into trying to help people less fortunate just trying to survive.

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