The La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness works to get people off of the streets and into housing. They have successfully ended veteran homelessness in 2016 and most recently, housed 20 chronically homeless individuals.
District 6 Council Member Jacqueline Marcou drafted a resolution that will go before La Crosse Common Council on Thursday night that would provide more funding to the collaborative's efforts. It passed through the Finance and Personnel Committee in a unanimous vote on February 1. The resolution calls for a combination of surplus funding and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to help local families experiencing homelessness.
As of December 20, 2017, the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness identified 12 families including 20 children who are homeless in La Crosse.
"They're living at the Salvation Army, at the Warming Shelter, in a car, or on the street," said Caroline Gregerson, Community Development Administrator for the City of La Crosse.
The resolution allocated $110,000 to the rental assistance program in an effort to get these families into more permanent housing.
"We think this is a really good use of city resources," Gregerson said.
A total of $60,000 would come from left over money in the 2017-2018 City Operating Budget. The other $50,000 would be funded by Community Development Block Grants.
"We have done things I think very effectively which has then created a situation where we are under budget or have a surplus from the 2017 year," said Mayor Tim Kabat of La Crosse. "We do have money available. It's not new tax money. It's basically carry-over money."
City officials say the money is not a handout.
"They would be paying 30-percent of their income," Gregerson said. "So, if they're not making an income, we would fully subsidize that rent until they can get stabilized."
"Most of the homeless people that we're working with have jobs," Kabat said. "So, that's one of those misconceptions that somehow folks aren't working."
The rental assistance helps families for between 18 and 24 months while they get back on their feet.
Kabat says it is about more than just putting roof over people's heads. It is about improving the quality of life.
"Especially kids who are in school, to be able to stay in one place is very important to their development," he said.
The idea is to spend money upfront to prevent higher costs to taxpayers in the future.
"If we're not making those investments, and people have that instability, and they don't have permanent housing, the impacts that has to children and their development is something that we'll be paying for going over and over again," Kabat said.
Gregerson says the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness has compiled a list of families in need. Those families will be placed in housing under the rental assistance program based on priority.
Those involved with the collaborative say approving the funds is only half of the solution. They are still searching for housing for the homeless families. Gregerson says finding affordable three- or four-bedroom homes can be a challenge.
If you are a landlord in La Crosse that has space available or is interested in learning more about the rental assistance program, visit the La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness website or contact Julie McDermid at 608-519-8009.