Homeless counts across the state

Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley
Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley

We've been dealing with a cold blast this winter, something we haven't had to deal with in years, at least not to this prolonged extent.

And for those experiencing homelessness, this weather is extremely dangerous.

Wednesday night crews headed out across the state again to try to get a current count of how many people are living without homes.

About 60 volunteers took off from the Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities.   The goal was to find a way to get anyone found living outside out of the cold immediately.

On a bitter cold night, the stakes become very high for a homeless count.

"The temperature is a great reminder of how dangerous and how vulnerable someone is to the elements," explained Chris Lashock, client services coordinator for the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley.

The numbers will be reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Last January Brown County volunteers found nine people living on the streets and 458 in shelters.  The Fox Cities count showed 2 people living outside and 301 people in shelters.

"HUD uses those numbers to report back to Congress.  So a lot of funding can be affected by how many people are homeless in the community," explained Tami Frea, program director for the New Community Shelter.

As of Wednesday the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley was above capacity at 78 people, with a waiting list of about five.  The New Community Shelter in Brown County had some beds available.  But the Freedom House was at capacity with ten families, there is a waiting list of 100 families.

"Where we really struggle in Brown County is with families.  If we would find a family out there tonight, there's no beds available for them, there's no immediate solution," explained Frea.

So if volunteers finnd anyone living in the elements they try to connect those in need with resources to get them inside, even if those resources are in another community.

Lashock told us the next step is making a plan for the future.

"Looking at some of the things they've had success with in the past and try to help nurture those skills and those talents to get them out of homelessness," he explained.

Lashock said it takes time to become homeless.

"All those things don't just happen over night.  So the solution doesn't come over night," he said.

But this count does happen over night and it's just a first step to finding the solution.