LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - The doors of La Crosse's Warming Center open at 7 p.m. each night in the winter.
And until 8 a.m. the next day, people who are homeless are able to eat, shower, sleep and find items to meet their basic needs.
Warming Center Coordinator Mark Schimpf says the needs vary for each guest who utilizes the services, so the organization is always looking for help and welcoming donations.
"Socks, hats, mittens, we sponsor a meal every night, meal sponsors are typically still in need especially as we move forward toward January."
But there is one area that Schimpf says seems to be the root of many of the problems he's seeing:
"Good access to healthcare, especially mental health care."
Schimpf says although there are things like Badger Care and other area doctors who are willing to help, those who are homeless and suffer mental health issues and substance abuse, aren't getting the actual help they need.
"You can't focus on any of that when your day to day grind is survival, that is it, that is all you can focus on when you're homeless, is just surviving day to day."
He says it's not necessarily a community issue, and stems from a string of systemic challenges that make it harder for people who are living on the streets to have access to proper services.
"We have people who come here who are in crisis who have either never been homeless and just got evicted or are going through a fairly severe mental health episode or they've relapsed."
The Warming Center is often the front line of these challenges and Schimpf says they do what they can to connect them with case workers and the county, but he says it may be a long road before their shelter stops filling up.
"There will come a day when we will not need 50 chairs and maybe we just need 10 or 15 or even less, I don't know but I'm not sure you ever lose the need for this exact kind of shelter, we fill a very special role for people here."
For questions or information, Mark Schimpf can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-519-8020.
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