More than 100 local families receive help through social worker program

More than 100 local families receive...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Jennifer Herman knows what it's like to be homeless.

You can imagine with five children, it's easy to give up.

"Between hotel rooms, staying anywhere, just basically trying to make it," Herman said.

Through a friend, Herman learned about the La Crosse Area Family Collaborative.

With the help of the city, Mayo clinic and the school district of La Crosse, social workers and directors of the program are able to be a link between families and the resources they need to get by.

"Access to mental health supports and services for adults and children and knowing how to access and navigate all of those different systems," said social worker Sara Rugg.

Program directors say the effort was inspired by an increase of referrals to child protective services in La Crosse.

Between 2010 and 2016 child protective services referrals in the city increased 35 percent.

But in just the last year, that number decreased.

"There was approximately a 14 percent decrease for the first time in many many years," said program director Isaac Hoffman.

So far the program has helped 179 families, including Herman and her 8-year-old daughter, who attends Hamilton Elementary.

She says her daughter is doing better in school because of the help they've received.

"Because of the help of Hamilton and the doctor's office that I go to, we're finally getting to know what's going on with my daughter as far as her learning disability, they're a great deal of help."

Hamilton school principal Steve Michaels says the school works directly with the program when students are struggling due to personal problems in life and at home.

He says the results are promising.

"Children who have been set up with real basic needs type things including clothing, laundry, house-ware, we've had families navigate tough times including divorce," Michaels said.

On any given day five to eight families attend the facility to receive the help they need.

Social workers say housing and domestic abuse are some of the main issues they work through with families in our area.

Neighborhood resource officers have also been a big help to the program.



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