La Crosse, Wisconsin (WXOW) ----- The city of La Crosse has the 2nd highest poverty rate among the 12 largest cities in Wisconsin.
On an average night, about 70 people spend the night in the Salvation Army shelter. That's only ten below the shelter's maximum.
During this very cold winter area churches have opened their doors as warming centers, but what if a person doesn't get get in? Where do the homeless go? La Crosse participated in a point in time count that's when organizations literally get a head count of the homeless in their area.
Coulee Cap conducts this every year to get an idea of the scope of the problem.
In the past News 19 has gone along for the count, but this year we went to the warming centers and meet the people who are the faces behind this very real problem.
The people that are La Crosse's homeless are very different, but all in line for the same thing-to get out of the cold.
Ron is a veteran and considered chronically homeless. "I've been here in town for 13 years, homeless for 7. I know a lot of people who have died through the winter."
James defies the stereotype. He's smart, articulate, and homeless. "I was going to school but had to drop out."
Kessi said being homeless is better than living in an abusive relationship.
People wait outside for hours to have the chance to get inside. They get numbers and only 15 people get to go inside. Someone is usually turned away.
James and Kessi said they have slept outside in the snow 3 times already this year. Coulee Cap says they didn't find anyone outside on this particular count but they estimate there were about 260 people in the shelters the night of the count which included some children.
Coulee Cap uses this information to get state funding.
They will release the final numbers February 12th.