Pam Anderson, co-chair of the Marathon County Housing and Homelessness Coalition, spoke about a husband and wife who became homeless after a car accident. The husband lost his job due to his injuries and had to be retrained for a different job. They slept on the floor in the attic of the wife’s father’s home. It was four years before they got back on their feet.

In Marathon County, 41% of families are living from paycheck to paycheck. Ten percent of ALICE families are below the poverty level. (2017 United Way Quality of LIFE report for Wausau and Marathon County)

There is a total of 1,083 adequate affordable housing units in Marathon County. There are 4,048 extremely low income renters. That translates to 27 affordable housing units per 100 low-income renters.

The main goal of Marathon County Housing and Homelessness Coalition which was signed in November 2015 is to end homelessness in ten years.

What are the goals?

1. Prevention

2. Shelter Systems

3. Supportive Services

4. Education, training and employment, support for a living wage, and others

5. Community Awareness

6. Coordinated response

7. Affordable housing, planning, and development is the key goal.

Accomplishments through partnering with other organizations

1. The Catholic Charities Warming Center has 25 beds, showers and a laundry facility. The average number of guests is going up and has been over capacity in 2017 and so far in 2018.

2. The Salvation Army has a capacity for 20 men, six women, and one family.

In 2016, 21 men, eight women, and five children received basic needs and housing services. Forty-two to 45 percent of the individuals entering the program found permanent housing.

3. Other organizations working together: Women’s Community; North Central Community Action Program; St. Vincent de Paul Family Housing; Beyond Shelter; Housing First; Emergency Housing Vouchers to pay for a stay in a hotel; Law Enforcement Emergency Housing Fund; Open Door for inmates released from the county jail at 5:00 am.

4. Thirty volunteers counted the unhoused one night in January. Point-in-Time volunteers count the unhoused twice a year. Point-in-Time works to connect the unhoused to Project Connect Housing Resource Fair. This article is from 2013 and was updated November, 7, 2015.

5. Shelter Bus Tour in November with a window display in a downtown storefront.

6. Summer Training and Education Program (STEP)

7. Promote the Joseph Project Employment Program. Kolbe and Kolbe is part of this program and teaches and trains work skills to the people in the program.

Pam Anderson suggested that the Mayor and City Council members talk to the homeless to find out what the needs are. She encouraged people to donate to the organizations serving the most vulnerable.

In summary, there are several essential needs to address the issue of homelessness.

1. Safe, quality, affordable housing

2. A full array of housing options and strategies

3. Services to individuals and families to meet the needs of each

4. Public transportation

5. Steady full-time employment

6. A living wage and a sustainable income through a good paying job

7. Break down the barriers that prevent people or make it more difficult to access services.

In his closing remarks, Mayor Robert Mielke said, “This shouldn’t be happening.”

Families and individuals are living under the Scott Street Bridge and other bridges, in parks, ‘doubling up’ with friends or family, and other places to seek refuge from the elements. Homeless people will go to the library, walk in the mall, and other places of business during the day.

What can we do?

1. Volunteer with one of the organizations.

2. Donate money.

3. Donate food, clothing, personal-needs items to the organizations.

4. Participate in the Poverty Simulation.

5. Encourage others in your church, in your family, in your circle of friends, and grassroots groups to get involved.

6. Educate yourself.

7. Befriend someone who is homeless. Treat them to a meal.

I apologize for any errors in this report based on my notes. We can do our part to eradicate homelessness in Wausau and Marathon County by 2025. Let’s work together to make this a reality