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La Crosse city council under pressure to find lodging for homeless, as fall sets in

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As summer turns to fall, city of La Crosse leaders are worried about where homeless people will go this winter.

The city’s homelessness coordinator said at a council planning meeting Tuesday they’re still working on plans for getting people to shelter when they have to leave Houska Park at the end of October.

“I’d say that we are moving as diligently as possible to come up with, create that concrete plan,” coordinator Brian Sampson told the council. “We don’t have the exact answers at this moment.”

Sampson says 140 unsheltered people were counted in La Crosse one night in July, with about 260 located in a four-county area. He said the city is looking for places where the homeless can go during the day as well as get funding for winter shelter.

The council also heard from some who have been homeless recently, including two women now staying at Houska Park — the area designated for camping last spring as to allow unsheltered to stay there without penalty.

The two women talked about how they became homeless, and how they try to avoid trouble with the police and others.

The Chamber of Commerce building and a south-side motel had been pursued by the city as possible sites for bridge housing, only to be opposed by others in the community in various ways.

Anthony Larson, a case manager at the local Center for Veterans Issues, said money shouldn’t be an issue.

“We have the money to put them in apartments,” says Larson, noting that grants are available. “We just can’t find landlords that’ll take ’em.”

Many unsheltered people were housed at the Econo Lodge in La Crosse last winter, at city expense, and were moved to Houska when the weather turned warmer.

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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