La Crosse Common Council unanimously approves proposal to buy south side motel as temporary shelter for homeless

The city is using up to $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to purchase the Maple Grove Motel and other expenses

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The La Crosse Common Council unanimously approved a plan Tuesday night to buy the Maple Grove Motel along Mormon Coulee Road to serve as temporary shelter for the homeless.

Mayor Mitch Reynolds says the city has explored every possible option that he can think of, and was either turned down or out bid.

The motel on Mormon Coulee Road has 26 rooms that includes bathrooms and showers, which the city will use to house 32 people year-round.

The site will also feature small homes, known as bridge housing, for the homeless to use while they transition out of homelessness.

City leaders don’t expect everyone to be happy.

But they believe buying the Maple Grove Motel to temporarily house La Crosse’s homeless is cost-effective, and will provide better access to people in need.

“There’s going to be people that are not going to want the homeless population anywhere, and that is simply not acceptable to me,” Reynolds said. “So, it’s a situation where I need to make sure we have space for these folks and we have an opportunity to serve them.”

A majority of neighbors at Tuesday’s meeting oppose the plan.

They told the common council they won’t feel safe, and they are not happy the plan was passed so quickly.

Jeannie Kendhammer didn’t hold back, calling the proposal a terrible idea.

“Homelessness is a sad and difficult problem,” Kendhammer said. “But the mental health issues, the drug addiction is not a good place for us to have as neighbors in a place like that. It’s terribly risky. It’s extremely sad.”

The city is already paying to house the current homeless population at the north side Econo Lodge, but that rental agreement expires April 1.

La Crosse Police Department Chief Shawn Kudron said during the hearing that the Econo Lodge averages roughly 100 calls for service a month, but most of them are for “trouble with party” calls, which require getting extra help from police. He also said it would be ideal for the police department to have the homeless housed in a centralized location.

Last week, the parks board voted to use Houska Park as a campground for the summer.

City leaders are still exploring a long-term solution, but parks, recreation & forestry department director Jay Odegaard says they need to act now.

“I think one thing that everybody can agree on is the fact that there needs to be a place for individuals to go, regardless of the situation,” Odegaard said.

The city will use $1.2 million dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds to purchase the motel. The council approved a second amendment to raise the total cost to as much as $1.5 million to accommodate for other expenses.

The city is set to take ownership of the property March 31.

Once the city is done using the motel as a shelter, the amendment calls for potentially developing the property into a multi-family development.

Recent News Headlines from News 8 Now  
Mayo Clinic announces plan for new hospital building in La Crosse 
Felon arrested after shooting at La Crosse police 
Iconic Kids Coulee in La Crosse up for renovation; Community urged to weigh in 
La Crosse police asking for help locating missing person