Local shelter and warming center reaching capacity before winter starts

Published On: Nov 28 2012 06:45:49 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 28 2012 07:07:29 PM CST
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

Winter hasn't even officially started yet, but already the places allowing the homeless a place to stay are filling to capacity.

The Warming Center opened earlier this month, but already, there have been at least three nights in which volunteers have had to turn away people because of limited capacity.

That means, the homeless are doing whatever it takes to stay warm and survive.

Sitting on the steps of the Warming Center at the First Baptist Church in La Crosse, Yvonne Boheme waits for the doors to open each night at 9.

“Gotta wait in line,” said Boheme. “They only accept 15 people.”

Covered in blankets, her belongings tucked away in the bags by her side, she took her spot in line 12 hours early.

It's the only way she can guarantee herself a warm place to stay for the night instead of the alternative.

“Stairs?” said Boheme. “There isn't too much [out there].”

Boehme wasn't always homeless. Just a couple of years ago, she held waitressing and factory jobs. Life was good, that is, until a severe knee injury left her barely able to move.

“Now, I can't work,” said Boheme. “My knees are gone, both of them now. I can't even hardly walk across the street.”

The director of planning for Coulee Cap, Shelly Teadt estimates Boehme is one of more than 250 people in the county who are homeless.

“It is heartbreaking,” said Boheme. “Today in America, no one should have to be homeless. Everyone should at least have a place to live.”

Teadt said there are many things that can be done to fix the problem of homelessness, including job creation, better wages and more support for organizations to help those in need.

However, in tough economic times, that's easier said than done.

“Resources are stretched very thin for all agencies serving homeless people, and we are wanting to do as much as we possibly can, but funding is short, and the people with needs are so high,” said Boheme.

So for now, Boehme and the others will have to wait and hope the steps to the warming center lead to brighter days ahead.

“To have everything in my life in order and to be able to have a house with my kids [and] be able to work,” said Boheme. “I'm not over yet.”

Boehme said she also tries to stay at the Salvation Army shelter in La Crosse. That shelter is also reaching capacity.

The warming center is open every night at 9 at the First Baptist Church on Main Street.

The center is looking for volunteers as well as donations. Anyone who would like to help is asked to contact Catholic Charities at P.O. Box 266 La Crosse, WI 54602 or head to the website www.cclse.org.