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State Lawmakers Pass Measures Designed to Tackle Homelessness

The State Assembly on Tuesday passed a package of bills designed to tackle the problem of homelessness

Wisconsin lawmakers on Tuesday took steps to rein in the state’s rising numbers of homeless people. The Republican-controlled Assembly passed several measures designed to connect more homeless people with permanent housing. The bills now go to the Senate. While the measures received bi-partisan support, some representatives don’t feel the bills go far enough.

The bills designed to get more homeless people into permanent housing range from putting eight different agencies under one roof to awarding one city $75,000 to secure jobs for people living on its streets.

Republican Rep. Jim Steineke of Kaukauna authored one of the measures. He says the GOP and Democrats alike have dragged their feet on the problem for years, so the bills are a good first step.

“It’s the humane thing to do and it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. The cost of emergency visits, nights in jail, nights in shelters, it’s extraordinarily high. With these resources spread across eight agencies, we could be combining them and make each dollar stretch further so we’re not duplicating efforts. And, people can’t contribute to our economy when they don’t have a stable place to call home,” Steineke says.

Advocacy groups estimate that on any given night across Wisconsin, more than 20,000 people are homeless. Democratic Rep. Lisa Subeck of Madison bemoans those statistics, which could indicate homelessness here has reached epidemic proportions. Subeck says while she supports the measures the Assembly passed on Tuesday, she thinks the state could do more.

“We can end and prevent homelessness but it will take more than just this council. It will take more than just pilot programs. To end and prevent homelessness we must invest in policies and solutions that we know work, increasing wages for the lowest paid among us,” she says.

Subeck says the state also needs to address its shortage of affordable housing, and beef up mental health and addiction services, so people don’t lose their homes.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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