The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness reported last year in Wisconsin there were an estimated 4,907 people who were homeless on any given day. Of that total, 660 were families, 332 were Veterans and 246 were unaccompanied young adults and 527 were individuals who are considered chronically homeless. Public school data reported to the U.S. Department of Education, during the 2016-2017 school year, shows that an estimated 18,592 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year. Of that total, 274 students were unsheltered, 2,675 were in shelters, 1,305 were in hotels/motels, and 14,338 were doubled up.
Homelessness is a statewide issue, affecting every county in Wisconsin. When you think about homelessness, a person sleeping on a park bench or in a doorway is often the image that comes to mind. While this is common, homeless may also be a person in a camper on someone’s property (with or 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.
Rural areas, like Burnett County, have unique challenges to address homelessness. Due to lack of transportation and long distances to available shelters, it can be difficult to help those who need it. However, Burnett County is lucky, there is one emergency shelter, Faith House, in Siren. It may be small, but it shelters families and single individuals when they have nowhere to turn. If Faith House is full, motel vouchers are sometimes available to use.
Faith House serves homeless persons and last year the shelter provided over 3,000 nights of peaceful sleep to the homeless in Burnett County. Faith House can house two homeless families at any given time and remains full. The staff can offer other services such as help with utility payments, other housing options and sometimes rental assistance. Right now, Faith House and The Salvation Army are in the middle of their Summer Bell Ringing Campaign. If you would like to get involved with helping the homeless right here in Burnett County, sign up to ring bells this summer at www.registertoring.com.
Also, coming up on the night of July 24th, the Semi-Annual Point in Time Count in the state of Wisconsin will happen. Volunteers are needed to go out on the streets to do a physical count of the homeless in Burnett County. This important count helps Department of Housing and Urban Development to know what a snapshot of the homeless population in the state looks like. Ultimately, this helps to determine what services and funding goes to our state. To get involved and volunteer, please contact 715-497-4438. There are many opportunities available to help this hurting population.
Submitted by: Angela Moulton, Burnett County Salvation Army
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