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State agency recognizes La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness

Man talks with social worker at Homeless Connect event.La Crosse, Wis. (WXOW) – The La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness launched in 2016 to address the growing issue in the city.

As cities across the state look to reduce the number of homeless people, the Wisconsin Hospital Association hopes city leaders can look at La Crosse.

“This example and the reason the collaborative received our Global Vision Award is because we think it can be replicated in communities across the state regardless of size,” WHA President Eric Borgerding said.

The La Crosse Collaborative has greatly reduced homelessness in the city. La Crosse became one of 60 cities in the nation to receive official recognition from U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veteran Affairs on effectively ending veteran homelessness.

“We work towards what we call functional zero, meaning that once a veteran or anyone becomes homeless, we work to try and house them within 30 days,” La Crosse Collaborative Project Manager Julie McDermid explained.

Award given to Gundersen Health System by the Wisconsin Hospital Association.
Plaque of the award given to Gundersen Health System.

Gundersen Health System received the Global Vision Award from WHA for their work in the collaborative. Officials say it’s important the local health systems play a big role in getting people in homes.

“It’s about addressing the social determinants of health to keep people healthy and that includes thins like housing,” Gundersen Health System CEO Dr. Scott Rathgaber said.

While the group continues to work on ending homelessness, they do face challenges. A big barrier is finding landlords willing to work with these residents who might have poor rental or criminal histories.

“A lot of these folks already have health issues and it’s much more difficult to care for them and to control their health issues when they don’t have a stable place to live,” Dr. Rathgaber added.

Now the group hopes to turn their focus to preventing those from being homeless to begin with.

“We’re busy designing a program that will meet the needs of our clients and beginning to test that model out now,” McDermid included.

Collaborative members say a major misconception is those that are homeless need to be taught how to live in an apartment and that’s not correct. They use the model of everyone is housing ready and statistics show it can actually improve their situation by finding them a home first and then supporting them with programs after.

Jeremy Culver

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