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As I See It

Will latest effort to end homelessness fare better?



The city of La Crosse’s efforts to address the problem of homelessness have been well documented. Despite trying a variety of tactics, those efforts have largely failed to solve the problem. Perhaps the city will have better luck by partnering with the county. The two municipalities recently agreed to work together to reduce the local homeless population, and have provided the first outline of their plans. What we’re hearing so far sounds encouraging. The plan is called Pathways Home, an effort that La Crosse’s mayor and La Crosse County’s board chair call aggressive and ambitious. A crucial step is to end homeless encampments, seeking instead to provide transitional housing for the unsheltered. No more tent cities. The county has already partnered with Couleecap for providing housing for homeless families. In fact, the first family moved in in November. Ten units of the renovated Hillview Healthcare Center are being set aside for transitional housing, and an apartment complex underway on Fourth Street will provide 13 units dedicated for the homeless. Key players like La Crosse police and local health care systems are on board with the plan. The update acknowledges the public’s frustration with failing to solve the problem of homelessness, despite significant public investment. But they pledge they are on track to end homelessness in the city by 2029. It won’t be easy, and we wish them luck, but it is a good sign to see our local governments working together to solve a problem that plagues our entire area.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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  1. nick

    February 22, 2024 at 7:15 am

    Will not work. A county is not a municipality.

  2. Bob N.

    February 22, 2024 at 8:49 am

    First, the city not only allowed but encouraged tent cities by setting up the Houska Park disgrace and 250 dregs ruined the park while they got free food, toilet paper and doctors. Hundreds showed up. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Police called there regularly.
    Then the city moved the vagrants to Econolodge on the Northside for the winter. Police called there nearly daily. About a million spent on that with hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to the hotel. In other failed ideas, the city nearly bought the Maple Grove motel causing it’s long-term residents to be evicted in advance. The County explored buying the Chamber building. The county leadership said it’s location was attractive near the county courthouse because the vagrants could walk to court appearances. I’d estimate about 10 million dollars in public money, not counting the share of Human Services’ 62 million annual budget or the salary or spending of the new “Homeless Co-ordinator, has been spent on these losers.
    The same team wants another crack at it, but they are using the same enabling people and thinking that has the problem intact.
    In private industry, a record like this would cause a corporate board to fire them all.

  3. R head

    February 22, 2024 at 9:21 am

    So the people of the county should pay for the homeless because the city of La Crosse is stupid and is a sanctuary city that’s stupid. Only dumb ass democrats could try to push a plan like that

  4. Gary

    February 22, 2024 at 2:21 pm

    If you’ve ever worked with this particular population, it’s very disheartening. It seems like you can give and give and give, and you see little effort to change. I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think it’s as easy as throwing money at it.

  5. Walden

    February 22, 2024 at 3:37 pm

    Contrary to what the article says, La Crosse’s efforts to end homelessness have not been well documented; the costs have been largely hidden and make public only piecemeal, and they are huge. As in, how many millions have been spent and what tangible outcome has resulted. And the Homeless Industrial Complex has become a self perpetuating administrative beast that requires annual funding; total joke on the taxpayers.

    The latest year long effort to come up with a plan to address the problem was really a stall tactic to find more funding.

    And Catholic Charities will get no more $ from me; they are now part of the government welfare state.

  6. Marcia Shiftar

    February 22, 2024 at 6:23 pm

    While camping on the wetlands of the Mississippi, LaCrosse and Black river
    intersection does anyone realize that this is a protected Wetland. A transportation hwy. which for generations has been a migration hwy.
    for waterfowl and rare birds and many types of mammals such as otter, beaver and fox to name a few. Fish are being toxified by pollutants in the water and waste. Tangles of fishing line and styrofoam is every where. Rip rap and raperian growth is being washed away. Many homeless receive checks monthly some not.
    Some can not go to shelters due to criminal records or drug and alcohol use. They do not choose to seek help for what ever reason. They choose to continue to use heroin, meth, alcohol, fentanyl, cocaine or other substance of choice. The encampments are polluting the ground of the wetlands causing runoff into the sacred waterways of La Crosse,
    Wisconsin and Beyond.

  7. walden

    February 23, 2024 at 1:59 pm

    Why is more “affordable housing” in La Crosse a good thing? Housing for many is simply not affordable unless it is subsidized by the government (taxpayer). How is building Soviet style high density housing that attracts even more distressed individuals good for the community at large?

    Maybe some of these folks should look for housing in more affordable communities like Sparta or Tomah (just to mention a few). Others are simply “unhousable” and should simply be encouraged to camp elsewhere.

  8. Kent Porter

    March 5, 2024 at 6:27 am

    Yez where is the DNR ?????????????

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