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Camping by homeless in La Crosse parks leads citizens to ask park board for a remedy



La Crosse homeowners are asking City Hall to do something about homeless people continuing to move into local parks.

At Thursday night’s Park Board meeting, speakers called on members to find places to shelter the people camping at parks, whether that means buying a hotel or finding other housing for them.

Two winters ago, the city spent several thousand dollars to house unsheltered people at a Rose Street motel during the cold weather in the midst of the pandemic.

The winter campground at Houska Park was cleared out in March, forcing some people to leave, and they’ve ended up at Cameron, Burns, and Goose Green parks.

La Crosse Parks, Recreation and Forestry director Jay Odegaard said at the meeting when the downtown warming center closes for the season, the people who have sheltered there often head to the parks.

Homeowners talked about encounters they’ve had with unsheltered people, who are at the parks. They worry about the garbage and drug use they’re seeing on public property.

They told board members they don’t feel safe, and they worry that businesses might leave downtown La Crosse if the homelessness problem gets worse.

Garbage piled outside La Crosse’s Houska Park on Mar. 15, 2023 (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

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

    May 19, 2023 at 10:14 am

    Mitch has been screwing these up like everything else. You need to make them unwelcome. Run there ass out of town! Soon the government will find out La Crosse is a sanctuary city, how had that worked out go New York. Wake up dumd ass

  2. Emily Skogen

    May 20, 2023 at 9:24 am

    Many people have commented that they don’t shop the businesses in Cameron Park area anymore because of the homeless people there. Something needs to be done. What is the solution?

  3. Ann Goldman

    May 20, 2023 at 10:40 am

    I am a vendor at the Cameron Park Farmers Market. One of the reasons we’re only having market on Friday nights now and not Saturday morning also is because of the homeless. I’ve spoken to many many people who will not come down to the Cameron Park Farmers Market because of the homeless there. Last night I was verbally attacked and abused by a man who went off on me when he asked me for a dollar and I said no. I think he was having some kind of schizophrenic episode at me and it’s lucky he didn’t get physically violent at me. There are very violent fights between the homeless while the farmers market is going on. There are homeless who collapse and all the EMTs have to come with a big fire trucks and take them out of the park. This is not good for any shopping down there and there is no enjoyment of Cameron Park for any citizen who pays taxes in this City. I’ve been told there’s nothing that the park board can do because the city isn’t doing anything. I was told that the city wanted to decriminalize the homeless so now they’re letting them sleep wherever they want to. Do drugs. Drink. The school on the corner of 5th and King Street children cannot go to the park now and have lunch because of the homeless and the homeless yelling at them. They have to have their lunch in the parking lot. Why don’t we as citizens have any rights. Do I have to wait until somebody attacks me down at the park before the police actually remove them and not allow them to come back? Or get them help, which I realize will never happen the way the legal and mental health system is set up.

  4. Walden

    May 21, 2023 at 11:22 pm

    WIZM says “the City spent thousands” of dollars…”

    Is this a mis-print? The City and County have spent millions each to support the homeless over the last few years. My guess is $10 million total including the indirect payments through the La Crosse non-profits and damage to parks and rented hotels. I suppose we will never know the exact amount.

  5. david greener

    May 26, 2023 at 5:14 am

    We have seen what happens when you give them a place to live (Huska Park)They wont live in any space away from populated areas. Has anybody tried free bus tickets out of town, maybe California. I think the money that has already been spent would have bought a lot of bus tickets.

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