La Crosse's homeless told to leave 'tent city'

La Crosse's homeless told to leave...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - As the city of La Crosse continues to plan for more development, there's more pressure to move the area's homeless population out of a popular spot.  

There are currently more than 300 people who are homeless in La Crosse County.

Many of them stay in an area called 'tent city' which is located just behind Riverside Park in La Crosse.

In an effort to address both safety and housing concerns, the city of La Crosse is asking everyone who is currently staying at tent city to leave by May 31st.

The city is partnering up with Couleecap, the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities in an effort to make sure those who need shelter and housing, will have a place go.

La Crosse's Salvation Army currently serves up to 80 people who are seeking shelter on any given night.

And while it's not always filled to capacity, that might change soon.

La Crosse Community Development Administrator Caroline Gregerson says the city is trying to find ways to end homelessness altogether and address downtown business concerns.

"We do as a city get complaints when there's lots of people loitering, or sitting out, it just doesn't make the city feel welcoming."

And while there are some options for people to go temporarily, it's permanent affordable housing the city finds to be most tricky.

"It's a challenging complex issue and the only way we can address it is bringing lots of agencies together."

Salvation Army Major Jeff Richardson says his organization has a role in making sure people are finding their way to a more stable lifestyle.

"To make it easy to come in and out of these programs so people can get the help that they really need and not live in really difficult situations."

Gregerson says there are several things to consider for those transitioning from places like tent city and into affordable housing.

"We have to offer an apartment with no strings attached other than you follow the lease. So you don't have to be sober, you don't have to quit using, just come into this apartment no strings attached, we're not going to make you sign anything."

Part of the reason why they want people out of the Riverside North area is it will soon become an active construction site.

They also say dangerous flood waters and the lack of waste facilities in the area are safety hazards.

The city is currently working with police to notify people of the May 31st deadline to leave the area.

After that, people will be ticketed if they stay.

The city is currently asking churches, area businesses and organizations to chime in and help make affordable housing an option for those who must now leave the Riverside area.


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