LA CROSSE, Wis. - The La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness began its 100-day sprint addressing the city’s chronically homeless population Thursday.
"It's a crisis,” CouleeCap housing and community services director Kim Cable said.
Kim Cable said just because dozens of people in La Crosse are growing used to living on our city's streets, that doesn't make solving chronic homelessness any less urgent.
“I think we have to look at this issue of people who are unsheltered and unhoused as an emergency,” she said.
Cable defined chronic homelessness as having some sort of disability that gets in the way of having permanent housing, “whether it's mental health, a cognitive disability or a substance abuse disorder.”
She guessed there are about 50 to 60 chronically homeless people in La Crosse, which Captain Jason Melby of the La Crosse Police Department can attest to.
“Over the years we've had significant contact with many of these people,” he said.
Melby said the police department will be playing its role in the 100-day sprint.
"We want to be there and be the doers in this group to make sure systems can be changed, and we can get service providers in contact with chronically homeless and work with the chronically homeless to connect them with the services,” he said.
Cable said another big goal is finding or creating local housing that's barrier free.
"For us, it’s important to have housing that doesn't have a whole lot of rules, like looking at people's backgrounds, rental histories, or credit histories,” she said.
Cable and Melby agree a sense of urgency makes all the difference.
"If we don't mobilize resources and coordinate them like this is an emergency, there's a good chance we're going to have what we've always got,” Melby said.
Cable said because this group is larger than the homeless veteran population was, it may not be possible to find housing for all of them within the 100-day sprint, which ends on July 28. She said they'll set a placement goal on a later date.
Last winter, the collaborative met their first 100-day goal by finding housing for more than a dozen veterans, effectively ending veteran homelessness in the city.
Starting in September, Cable said group's third 100-day sprint will be focused on finding homes for homeless families with children by Christmas.
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