What are local governments supposed to do about homelessness?
City and county officials in La Crosse are working on the problems affecting unsheltered people.
They have a planning meeting scheduled for June 6 to discuss possible action.
La Crosse County administrator Jane Klekamp on WIZM’s La Crosse Talk PM this week said she sees homeless people in downtown parks every day.
“The county is in no way trying to ignore the issue,” Klekamp said. “I think we are working hard with the city and community organizations, to try and figure out what we can do to help alleviate some of it.
“It’s a very challenging issue. Obviously, if it was easy to fix, it would have been fixed a long time ago.”
The planning meeting comes after people showed up at a city Parks Board meeting, asking the government to do something about the homeless in area parks.
Klekamp said the latest estimate of homeless people in La Crosse is around 80 individuals.
The county also has provided funding to groups in town that work with the homeless to begin purchasing properties for bridge housing that will help people get into temporary shelter until they can afford something more permanent.
The city and county also teamed up to launch what’s called the Eviction Defense Program, to try and pre-empt homelessness.
It’s designed to provide legal help to renters who are threatened with being evicted.
Legal Action of Wisconsin will get funding from the city of La Crosse and the county, along with the La Crosse Community Foundation, to pay for attorneys to represent clients in court to avoid eviction.
The La Crosse County Board voted two years ago to launch the program but starting the program was delayed by staffing shortages.
County Board chair Monica Kruse hopes the program will prevent families from becoming homeless, which could lead to people missing work or school and developing health problems.