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As I See It

Are stopwatches and measuring tape really the answer to solving La Crosse’s homeless problem?



The best and brightest minds in La Crosse’s city hall were recently tasked with coming up with a solution to the city’s homeless problem. A group of department heads were told to come up with a plan to shelter the homeless, what it would cost, and what resources would be needed. What we have heard so far isn’t encouraging. A city committee last week voted on a plan that would have forced the homeless in the city to move along. It would require that every twelve hours, anyone camping on city property would have to move at least 500 feet. How does that solve the problem? Those camping along the river, or in a park would literally have to move just down the road to be compliant. And who would enforce this? Would we really send La Crosse police out with stopwatches and measuring tape to find out if one person has moved far enough every twelve hours? Are they going to do that for every homeless person in the city? We know our officers have better things to do. The committee wisely, but narrowly, voted down this idea, but the final word will come from the city council this week. Let’s hope when that comes, we will hear bigger ideas than just continuing the homeless shuffle.

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. Bob N.

    July 8, 2024 at 7:00 am

    The Supreme Court has given municipalities the power to evict all these vagrants from public property. Many cities will now do just that. La Crosse’s City and County governments, however, are dominated by liberals who resist the opportunity to solve the homeless problem. Why? Because to do so would admit that their years of social workers, government agency spending, and enabling have been the wrong solutions and a failure. Their methods have caused the permanent addictions and subsequent deaths of many of these vagrants by delaying the decisions that must be made. The Supreme Court, no less, has told them so. We’ll see if these arrogant local liberals will listen.

    • Kristina

      July 8, 2024 at 11:53 am

      Bob, Have you tried working with this population? I have. There are a lot of health/mental health issues going on! This is not about freeloaders.We no longer have the facilities, like in the past. Lord forbid you should ever get sick and become addicted to medicines the Healthcare professionals push on you! What if you were to lose everything you’ve acquired by floods, tornados, (2008) market crash. If you’re blessed…bless others!

    • Karl S.

      July 8, 2024 at 10:27 pm

      Spot on, Bob.

  2. Elliott B

    July 8, 2024 at 9:08 am

    Bob N., what’s your idea? Besides making it a political issue

    • Bob N.

      July 8, 2024 at 9:41 am

      Elliott- what would you do with a free-loading relative who had been sleeping on your couch too long?

      • The Dude

        July 8, 2024 at 2:49 pm

        Elliot B…..please re-read Bob N’s comment he has provided his idea and solution. By enabling the “un-sheltered” and providing for them without accountability is not humane. If there is an addict that is loitering, living, sleeping, trespassing, camping in the marsh or elsewhere that is prohibited it is their choice and they should suffer the consequences. Part of the incarceration is drug testing and medical assistance to get people help with dependencies. Enforce the laws and stop this. Onalaska doesn’t have a homeless problem. Huston MN doesn’t have a homeless problem. West Salem doesn’t have a homeless problem. Why???? They do not allow it.

        • Bill bob

          July 9, 2024 at 6:43 am

          Hair drug testing for hard drugs for government aid if there on drugs they dont get aid no ssi no food stamps no child support but all humans deserve a shower a few meals and shelter. Ssi needs reform

    • Joe C

      July 8, 2024 at 11:27 am

      Just go down by Walgreens on Rose St. see how that helped

  3. Nate B

    July 8, 2024 at 11:13 am

    The answer is simple. Stop enabling these losers. These people choose to live like this at the expense of everybody else. Most of them are drug addicts with mental disorders. Many of them are regulars at the county jail. This problem is hurting small businesses in the area and making our community unsafe. STOP ENABLING!

  4. Tim

    July 8, 2024 at 5:14 pm

    Give them all a one way ticket to Seattle or Portland. Plenty of help out in the PNW for them homeless bums.

  5. Karl S.

    July 8, 2024 at 10:23 pm

    Reading these comments and in agreement with them, Mitch is ineffectual at best, and the folks on the council are no better. Make the tough calls, people.

  6. Tammy H

    July 9, 2024 at 6:31 am

    I have read everyone’s comments. Most do not come up with a solution. My father who I loved dearly..was homeless alot of his life. He was a Vietnam vet messed up from war. Addicted to alcohol. He’s passed away now. He could not hold a job but he was the nicest person you could meet. My husband passes the same corner everyday to work and the same homeless guy is there holding a sign every morning. He asked me “WHy can’t he get a job?”
    Answer is simple
    He can’t pass a drug test..only thing that he can do is hold a sign
    Please be kind to all.

    • Roy

      July 9, 2024 at 3:39 pm


      If the panhandler “cannot pass a drug test’ as you theorize, it would likely mean that he is currently using drugs and is assumed to be using his handout money to buy those drugs. Giving money to these people is a form of enabling, and while you may get a fleeting warm feeling doing so, know that you are part of his problem.

  7. Billy

    July 9, 2024 at 6:36 am

    All goverment aid should come with hard drug hair testing if your hair says your dirty no ssi no food stamps definatly no child support but people should have the right to shelter and showers and meals no matter wat

  8. Jim

    July 9, 2024 at 6:51 am

    Why don’t you all stop cutting people down that are homeless they do drugs because they have nowhere to sleep no rest and that’s what their cure is for their heads to feel better and just because their addicts doesn’t mean they’re losers and their bums and they’re this and that it’s called lock up addiction not me not you get rid of the addiction problem just like you guys are addicted to your money and addicted to cutting these people down calling your brother a bum that sleeps on your couch or a sister who has nowhere to live give them help and good thought in their head with their words instead of cutting them down what you should do as a state of the Cross or city of Lacrosse should do is get some government money 60 to $80,000 build a big pole shed somewhere on a couple acre of land put some jail cell beds in there those type and some get some laundry for them like blankets and pillows like jails carry and it’s not a jail cell but get them in there and make it two step to three step situation where people go in there the good people start to help those people and they move them up a level until they’re in the third level and then people by a government should help them get jobs when they have drug issues and stuff like that it’s hard for anybody to get a job and they just feel like s*** they feel like they’re bums because of how you guys all cut them down why don’t the board meeting and you people all get it straight and this is from James Kelly someone who is experiencing it right now from that community I got robbed 17,500 cuz I sold my home cuz my mother died and now I’m homeless really f****** nice excuse my language.

  9. Bill bob

    July 9, 2024 at 6:54 am

    Why does are government help our loved ones with drug addiction with an ssi check for mental illness wen the mental illness was caused bye drugs stop helping like this its not help at all ssi need reform hair drug testing for government aid needs to be law

  10. J Pachar

    July 9, 2024 at 10:48 am

    As a conservative libertarian I am so deeply saddened to see people whom I likely align with politically calling people “vagrants”. While these individuals fit the definition of a vagrant, we too would be vagrants if not for the Grace of God.

    Now, I believe the solution is pretty simple. Conservatives will not like it and see it as a handout, and Liberals will hate it and call it indentured servitude. The homeless and the taxpayer will benefit from it.

    Solution: The city should house these individuals. In Exhange for housing, these individuals provide work for the city, be required to attend and pass life skills courses, and can only be housed for a pre-defined time limit. If done properly it would be a revenue neutral expenditure and the goal would be to train these individuals to be self-sustainable and independent.

    Choosing not to participate in this program would result in jailtime.

    I’d like to remind my fellow conservatives that using derogatory terms, repeating Glen Beck talking points and engaging in social media tit-for-tat does nothing to solve the issue.

    Drugs are a bitch, and that is likely what has caused or keeps people in a homeless state. Yes, the individual has made bad choices, and no one forced them into drugs, but that is where they may find themselves so pointing that out is not helpful and is not a solution.

    It’s like me telling someone who can’t swim to ‘just swim’ if they fell out of a boat, then once they are in the water drowning for me to remind them, they shouldn’t be on a boat if they can’t swim, and they should have been wearing a life jacket. We need to throw a lifeline and get them back to the boat, once on the boat make sure that they learn to swim.

  11. J Pachar

    July 9, 2024 at 11:15 am

    Bill Bob – I hope you do not proclaim to be a conservative or libertarian. There is not a chance in hell I am going to give the government the authority that collects any samples from individuals that contain DNA without warrant.

    If you want government collecting DNA it’s only a matter of time until government (which given Government’s trajectory will be short) for finding other purposes, or as you pointed out it would be immediate since others on SSI for various things like the death of a parent/spouse or achieved the minimum age to collect SSI.

    How long do you think it would be until insurance companies or the state starts using that DNA to determine healthcare treatments based off what they decide the cost/benefit is for that individual. My guess is government would start using it before the drug test came back.

    The solution is what I stated earlier. They provide services to the city in exchange for housing and life skills training for a set period of time. Failure to comply is subject to jail time for violating city code.

    I would love to take it further and offer businesses tax credits dollar-for-dollar for training and providing jobs (again for a set period of time) meaning if you hire and pay someone who is classified as ‘un-sheltered’ wages and benefits are an actual credit – not deduction but dollar-for-dollar credit.

  12. Karla Mendell

    July 9, 2024 at 1:34 pm

    If they are indeed the best and the brightest La Crosse has to offer why has it taken this long. How about wr invest in a few mailboxes so families could reconnect. Maybe even have a Social Worker hel0 them contact family and friends to become alerted to the issues their family members are facing . Homeless don’t have access to a constant anything on their lives. Please give them the dignity of and address ( even a po box ) . Help them reconnect. Many families are not aware of drug problems and Homelessness. I’m certain many would appreciate a word on their loved ones. In our AI world surely we could track down one person that will care. DO BETTER LA CROSSE. That’s someone’s child. In this world could be any of ours. Chew on that

  13. Kal C.

    July 10, 2024 at 5:04 am

    Is there lead in Wisconsin’s drinking water?

    Looking through this comment section, I can see a complete disregard for human life in an extreme degree of disrespect from a large amount of folks who have likely never wanted or needed for anything in their lives. A lot of assumptions being drawn about these homeless folks without any evidence or base or whatsoever. It just seems like y’all want a reason to hate the homeless.

    The reason La Crosse is dealing with so many homeless people right now is because so many cities in Wisconsin have kicked them out. So many places have made it criminal to exist while broke. If you really want to be responsible for shoving these problems off to another city, keep on coming up with these ridiculous “solutions.” Because people aren’t going to be flocking to Minnesota or California; they’ll be heading to Madison.

    One can only hope that the recent redistricting introduces a degree of intellect into the state’s legislation. I can’t imagine people like this running Wisconsin forever.

    • Roy

      July 10, 2024 at 11:43 am

      Thanks for the comment. You’ve shown that it is possible to be condescending while being stupid.

    • Libertarian Guy

      July 11, 2024 at 10:57 am

      Kal C
      I think you are making an incorrect assumption that people who are opposed to what’s happening hate the homeless. That is rarely the case. I say rarely because there probably are a few people that are hateful. I think the residents of lacrosse are very frustrated with taxes in general, the amount of money that is being spent/wasted, the time spent developing ineffective solutions like requiring a homeless person to move 500 feet every 12 hours, the problem of finding human waste in places where such things do not belong, needles being found in park where children play and where have they have been exposed to blood-borne pathogens with needle sticks, destruction of property, harm to the environment such as the marsh, harm to business. this is not hate. This is concern for one’s community. Unfortunately, local government efforts are actually making the problem worse. Efforts being made are creating a concentration of homeless in our community. And those of us who are paying for it And love this community are frustrated, angry, and sometimes make over the top comments. I explain this in my comment below. I will ask you, what are you doing to help the homeless, or are you sitting back waiting for government to fix it.

  14. Libertarian Guy

    July 11, 2024 at 10:39 am

    It seems there’s a lot of back-and-forth arguing in this comment thread. That’s what happens when government inserts itself in such matters. It is important to be kind, compassionate, and helpful to people who are having problems. Homelessness is one such a problem. If people want to help the homeless, they are welcome to do so through any means they decide: make meals, give to Salvation Army, invite someone to live in your backyard, give to the church of your choice that helps homeless. And do these things voluntarily. When any level of government (in this case, city and county government) inserts itself into this matter, they are exceeding the role of government. They are using tax money to force taxpayers to somehow solve the problem. This is coercion. This is bureaucrats and politicians trying to solve a social problem, something they are ill equipped to do. I will also point out it has been tried in various cities across the country without success. If government is to play any role whatsoever, members of government could encourage people to voluntarily offer whatever assistance they find it in their heart to provide. Giving voluntarily one’s time, treasure, or talent is a faith based perspective. When government forces you to help by using tax dollars confiscated from the citizenry, it is flat wrong for numerous reasons, not the least of which is it is expensive and a wasteful and inefficient effort and it divides us as people. Hence, the stream of opposing comments above.

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