LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - In September, the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness set a goal to end veteran homelessness by Christmas.
Just last week, the group reached that goal early, but they stress more work needs to be done.
In less than 100 days, the collaborative placed 14 homeless veterans in permanent housing throughout La Crosse, surpassing the group's expectations.
But a tragedy late last week has sent the group a reminder that their work is far from finished.
"It's been a wild ride for the last 100 days," chair for the collaborative Kim Cable said.
And in that time, the Collaborative to End Homelessness has reached a lofty goal.
"Our goal of housing veterans is the goal we met last week on Friday," Cable said. "In fact, we exceeded our goal. Our goal was to house 12 veterans by Christmas, and we have housed 14."
The collaborative says better communication has made a big difference in achieving that goal.
"What's new I think is that we've brought the veterans agencies into the fold, and that we are connecting with them now on a very regular basis," Cable said.
As a landlord and collaborative member, Capt. Jason Melby of the La Crosse Police Department says the group's efforts with landlords have been effective as well.
"The hesitations that some of the landlords may have I would say, would be largely alleviated by the fact that there are people to work with these veterans to help them get back on their feet," Melby said.
But last Friday, the body of 37-year-old Jordan Valentino was found in downtown La Crosse. He was one of eight veterans in the collaborative who were still waiting for housing. While the cause of death has not yet been determined, his death serves as a reminder of the importance of their mission.
"Knowing he was outside on a night when it's cold in December, I think drives home our point that we're trying to make here and that people need housing," Cable said. "We need to keep doing this work in the community. It's very important, and lives are at stake, and I don't think we can forget that."
But as one goal is reached, the group plans to form another 100-day goal early next year.
"I think we'll just build on the foundation that we've laid on this first 100-day cycle, to launch us into another round of good work," Cable said.
There are still a few homeless veterans waiting for housing.That's because as the group searched for housing for the original 12 homeless veterans, they discovered more veterans in La Crosse.
The goal is to get to "functional zero," which means that they would have no homeless veterans waiting for housing.
A homeless veteran found in that time could be housed in less than 30 days.
The collaborative hopes to begin a new 100-day campaign in early 2017.
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