La Crosse Police NROs and resource leaders connecting homeless people to hope

COVID-19 pandemic making life more challenging for homeless people in La Crosse
Homeless In The Park Help

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – It can only take one unfortunate circumstance for a person to end up on the street. Several of those people call Cameron Park in La Crosse’s downtown home. The La Crosse Police Department and several organizations held a resource gathering Wednesday in the park.

This park is where one will find nature in the midst of concrete and steel. There are a lot of people who love downtown La Crosse’s Cameron Park; so does Susan Cheri Moore.

“I currently live in this park,” said Susan Cheri Moore who is currently homeless.

Tom Gray became homeless a short time ago.

“I’ve been out here. This is my third summer in a row,” Gray said.

Gray and Moore are part of a community in need of help.

“This is really no life for anybody,” Gray said.

La Crosse Police Officer Alex Burg said the park is a central hub for those with nowhere to go.

“There’s quite a few homeless people who stay in this park on a regular basis,” Burg said.

Many of these people feel leaders are pushing them out of the one place they feel safe.

The frustration is heard from Rufus Miller.

“Where we gonna go? What we gonna do?” Miller said. “We’re on the streets. We’re surviving out here.”

He said COVID-19 just made their situation worse.

“This got us all messed up,” Miller said. “I lost my job and everything.”

He wants answers to some difficult questions and he is not alone.

“They want us out of this park,” Moore said. “I guess I can understand that. They don’t want us camping out here, but when you’re in dire straights and you have no choice what is one to do?”

Officer Alex Burg has been a neighborhood resource officer for four years. He knows these people well. He and several organizations are trying to get these people out of this life.

“We’re not just here to enforce ordinances or make arrests,” Burg said. “We’re trying to help them connect with the right people to get them out of the situation.”

This is a complicated issue because everyone has their own story.

“Sometimes with addiction and mental health it’s difficult to overcome those barriers,” Burg said.

The only people who truly understand are the ones living here sunup to sundown.

“It’s definitely not like going on a weekend camping trip,” Gray said.

Moore said people judge their character.

“If you traded places for a week you would understand the desperation; the fear,” she said.

Burg said it is up to people like himself to give these people options, he just asks them to listen.

“The people need to want to get the help themselves,” Berg said. “I think that’s really important.”

Moore said people are one bad break or decision away from ending up in her shoes.

“A relationship gone bad; a sheriff’s eviction,” she said. “It can be any number of things.”

Many don’t know if things will get better.

“I’m already 60 years old,” Gray said. “The life that I was living is gone. I’ll never get it back.”

The only fact is there are people in La Crosse doing what they can for these people. They still want them to visit Cameron Park but have a place of their own.

“I’m optimistic that things will turn out the way that they should; that we’ll get the help that we need,” Moore said. “We’re doing the best that we can right now.”

Here are some of the organizations involved in Wednesday’s resource gathering. (Salvation Army, Coulee Council on Addiction, Driftless Recovery, La Crosse County, Adult and Teen Challenge, Coulee Cap, Gundersen, and Catholic Charities)