On any given day, there are over 5,000 people in Wisconsin without a place to call home. They are sleeping in shelters, in cars, under bridges, in caves and in storage units. Some may be sleeping in transitional living projects. Nevertheless, all lack a safe, stable, and permanent home.
While, we all know there is a significant homeless community, there are multiple misconceptions about the homeless community. The first misconception is about the homeless people’s shelter.
When you think about homelessness, you probably think of a person sleeping on a park bench or in a doorway. While this is common, homeless may also be a person in a camper on someone’s property (without the owner’s permission). They may be sleeping in a car in a store parking lot. People also stay in makeshift campsites deep in the woods.
The second misconception is about the homeless people’s makeup. When we think of a homeless person, we often think of a single adult. However, homelessness also affects families and youth as well. Almost half (47.4%) of the people experiencing homelessness in Wisconsin are families with minor children. This is higher than the national average, which is 35%.
The third misconception is about homeless people’s location. Often, we think that homeless people are confined to cities and highly populated areas. However, this is not the case. Homelessness is a statewide issue, affecting every county in Wisconsin.
During the 2017 January Point in Time count in Wisconsin, there were over 5,000 people identified as homeless on one night. Of the 5,000, 67% of them are residing in rural counties in Wisconsin. The main challenge rural communities face to help the homeless is that services are difficult to access due to a lack of transportation and long distances. Plus, where there are emergency shelters, they may be small and full.
Thankfully, the State of Wisconsin is constantly trying to combat this issue. In Rural Wisconsin, there are many unique partnerships to assist homeless families in providing housing as well as skills to move them out of poverty. The state offers funds that assist in providing emergency shelters, one time rent assistance, short term supportive housing, permanent supportive housing, utility payments, transitional housing and assistance in accessing other mainstream resources. In addition, private donors and private foundations offer additional funds to help this homeless community.
Locally, in Burnett County, the homeless are served by Faith House Shelter. Last year, Faith House provided over 3,000 nights of peaceful sleep to the homeless in Burnett County. Faith House Shelter is located in Siren and can house two homeless families at any given time. The shelter remains full.
Faith House also helps in providing case management to programs like permanent supportive housing and transitional housing programs. To learn more about our local homeless shelter and the programs Faith House offers, please visit www.safaithhouse.org or follow them on Facebook at Burnett County Salvation Army.
Submitted by: Angela Moulton, Burnett County Salvation Army
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