LA CROSSE, Wis. - The La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness has a lofty goal: to end veteran homelessness in the La Crosse area by Christmas. To help meet that goal, the group imposed a deadline to have all rental units secured by Friday, but they're still searching for apartments for the vets.
The collaborative launched its 100-day goal to house the 12 homeless veterans in La Crosse back in mid-September, and set Veterans Day as the deadline to secure enough units for the homeless veterans.
"These are people that have fallen on hard times. They've served our country and it's the right thing to do," Captain Jason Melby, of the La Crosse police department, said.
Melby knows solving veteran homelessness takes a large effort.
"If I write them a ticket, did we just solve the problem of them being homeless? No," he said.
But a landlord as well, Melby is able to offer homeless vets much more than a ticket.
"One of them, I'm proud to say, ended up going in one of our properties in Tomah," he said.
Since September, the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness identified 12 homeless veterans to house by Christmas, and eight have already moved into homes of their own.
But with Veterans Day approaching, the group is reminded of how far they have to go.
"The goal by tomorrow is to have all the properties identified," Melby said.
According to chair of the collaborative Kim Cable, they have identified more homeless veterans since September, and the biggest obstacle so far has been finding those properties.
"We have the services and rental assistance secured, but we just need about eight more one-bedroom units for us to help house the veterans on our list," she said.
Sometimes, landlords have reservations.
"The worry of being landlord, bringing someone in who hasn't rented in a long time, who maybe doesn't have the greatest rental history, or credit history," Melby said.
But he said the reward of giving someone a second chance is worth it.
"The thing that our organization is simply asking that with our wraparound services by different service providers, we think we can acclimate people back to housing, and give them a place to call home," Melby said.
Cable said even though they'll likely fall short of their goal to secure all the properties by Veteran's Day, all the veterans housed so far are doing well, and she's confident the others will be able to enjoy a Merry Christmas in their new homes.
Some members of the collaborative will be meeting with a local landlord association Nov. 17 to answer any questions about working with their initiative.
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