Deadline to close 'tent city' arrives

City, others offering housing programs

Deadline to close 'tent city' arrives

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Wednesday marks the city-imposed deadline to move people away from what is known as 'tent city' for La Crosse's homeless.

Now the city is looking to break the cycle of homelessness by providing resources for those who lived there.

Although police said many that were staying at 'tent city' are gone, some remain at the encampment.

For those individuals, the city and other organizations are trying to offer resources to find permanent housing.

Police officers and volunteers spent Wednesday looking for the last of those living at 'tent city'

"Officer Miller and members of Catholic Charities and Salvation Army are going down and working to see if we can get them out of there yet today, and work on getting things cleaned up down by the river,” La Crosse Police Capt. Jason Melby said.

In the month since the city ordered the closure of 'tent city,’ La Crosse police said the number of those staying there has decreased.

"We've made some pretty significant progress already,” Melby said. “We're seeing people really take advantage of the systems that are in place."

That system involves the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness, an effort launched last year to find housing for all of the area's homeless.

"With the housing first mentality, getting people in shelter and housed first, and then addressing other issues that may have contributed to their homelessness, whether it may be mental health or substance abuse, that can addressed after we get them into shelter,” Melby said.

"The main thing we are looking for are apartments for these individuals to live in,” said Caroline Gregerson, La Crosse Community Development administrator.

As part of those efforts, the city is offering nine housing vouchers to help get homeless individuals in stable housing.

"That's essentially a subsidy to allow anyone who is homeless to be able to cover rent, so we've got the rent covered, we're just looking for the units right now,” Gregerson said.

Those individuals would then be provided a case manager.

"That's going to help them get up on their feet, get connected to health services, get connected to jobs,” Gregerson said.

Police said now is the time to move forward with the closure.

"The initiative is there with the local service providers and the community to see people end up in permanent housing,” Melby said.

Other agencies such as Catholic Charities and Coulee Cap are doing their own programs to find housing for residents as well.

There is a landlord forum from 10 a.m to noon Thursday at city hall in La Crosse.

Service agencies will present about their services and answer questions from interested landlords.

City crews will be working on cleaning up the tent city area the rest of the week.

Those who stay could be ticketed.

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