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City launches 2-year program to help insure La Crosse landlords who rent to homeless



FILE - Tents set up under the shade of a tree in Houska Park on an August evening, where about 70 of La Crosse's 90-100 homeless are camping. (PHOTO: Rick Solem)

The city of La Crosse is reaching out to landlords with sort of an insurance plan if they rent to anyone who is homeless and working with a case manager.

It’s being called the Landlord Mitigation Program (LMP).

A few weeks ago, La Crosse Mayor Mitch Reynolds identified buildings throughout La Crosse that could be used to house the unsheltered.

During that news conference, however, Reynolds also called on property owners to consider taking in the unsheltered.

The LMP could help encourage that by providing up to $5,000 if a landlord’s unit is damaged or rent/fees accumulate. The program will go on for two years.

“The funds are designed to reduce the risk to a landlord who agrees to rent to a client who may have a poor rental history and/or other barriers that may traditionally be considered grounds to decline a rental application,” a letter from La Crosse Homeless Coordinator Brian Sampson stated.

The program consists of three groups: landlords, service providers and clients.

Service providers — agencies that serve the unsheltered — would sign on through what’s being called the “Landlord Partnership Agreement.” Some services providers could offer include developing goals with clients, offering ongoing support services, communicating with landlords and meeting with clients on a monthly basis (at a minimum).

Clients who sign on would agree to work with service providers for two years. If they refuse at any point, landlord can terminate the lease agreement.

“Service providers work with eligible clients to register them in the program and agree to provide a minimum requirement of case management services for two years,” Sampson’s letter adds. “Landlords retain all of their legal rights by signing up for this program and maintain the autonomy of deciding who to rent what properties to.”

Only landlords in the city are eligible, as long as they’re willing to offer any available units to an individual or family on the eligibility list, the city stated.

The program is funded with support from the Johns Flaherty Collins Michael Stoke Memorial, June Kjome Justice & Peace, and Community Giving funds of the La Crosse Community Foundation.

Most homeless people in the city have been staying at Houska Park near downtown, after the city deemed it a campground last spring. That plan, however, ends Oct. 31. And, unlike last year, the city will not be providing funds for homeless to stay again at a north side motel.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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  1. Nick Berry

    October 12, 2022 at 9:39 am

    I understand the Reynolds has rental properties. Are they a possibility or are they rented?
    Would not the purpose of the service providers be to transition them to rental units after the program?
    How many are homeless due to addiction and how many because they cannot afford to rent? Do we know the numbers? I realize the numbers can change every day..
    What happens if the damage is more than $5,000? You may not be able to turn it into your insurance company?
    A client who does not cooperate with the service provider can have the lease terminated. How long after that does it take for an eviction?
    A lot pf questions and no answers.

  2. Sara

    October 22, 2022 at 9:58 am

    The sad part is the majority of the homeless are addicts.
    I worked with the population for years in the area. So we are spending our tax dollars to house drug addicts. The motels that they use are deplorable already from the stay last winter and drug use/activity. Its really ridiculous.
    We are closing schools yet we house junkies.
    I met a family with one eviction that could not find a place in the city of La Crosse yet we house homeless criminals. Sick

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