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NEWS STORIES

Group Addresses Homelessness in Lincoln CountySubmitted: 01/18/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer
bmeyer@wjfw.com


MERRILL - Homelessness can be difficult to see by the naked eye in northern Wisconsin.

But it's here - just in a little bit different form than you might normally think of it.

"We don't see a lot of people sleeping under bridges. We're seeing mostly the folks who are transitioning from one place to another," says Art Lersch, a member of Lincoln Co. Homelessness Task Force.

There's enough of this type of homelessness for Lincoln County to form a task force.

It includes leaders from many non-profits, from the UW-Extension to the food pantry.

Its main goal is indentifying the causes of homelessness in the area and using grant money to help people in need.

Also, the task force wants to know just how many people are homeless in Lincoln County - which is easier said than done.

"This is one of the goals that this task force has - to try to put more numbers to this. But it's not only about numbers, it's describing what homelessness is like here in the county," Lersch says.

Finding permanent homes for people is especially important to the task force during this time of year.

"We don't want to see people transition when it's 10 degrees below zero. You don't want to see that any time of the year, but I think it especially hits home during the wintertime," says Lersch.

Besides nonprofit leaders, the task force wants your involvement in helping to fight homelessness.

They invite you to their next meeting on February 14 at 11:30am at HAVEN in Merrill.

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EAGLE RIVER - With her hands folded and head bowed, Northland Pines Senior Class President Sam Hytry stood humbled and empowered Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm praying for Antigo and everyone else that's involved," Hytry said.

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"We sent out an email yesterday and we also used social media like Twitter and Facebook to kind of get the word out too," Hytry said.

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ANTIGO - For the last week and a half many people shared stories of shock, sadness, fear and hope out of Antigo.

Police, students and clergy all spoke out, struggling to figure out why the prom night shooting happened.

For the first time on Wednesday, one shooting victim told his story.

Collin Cooper, 18, said he's doing ok. He spent nearly seven days in the hospital, undergoing three surgeries to get the leg just below the knee on the right track to heal properly. He wraps an ace bandage around his left calf, which covers the wound. He also has stitches from where doctors made incisions during surgery. He also has a vacuum-assisted closure, or V.A.C., for the wound.

"I can't walk yet," Cooper said. "But they said I can put pressure on it in about three to four weeks, I think they said. But I wont be back to walking on it fully for three to four months."
He said doctors told him the bullet shattered 10 percent of his tibia, a major bone in the calf.

"They said the lucky part is it didn't hit any major arteries and it only nicked one vein," Cooper added.

Now Cooper has to sit at home and rest up. His blood levels are still low, and it hurts to hold his leg vertically. Several times a day he has to do ankle and knee exercises to strengthen the muscles around them. Otherwise he has to keep his leg elevated, even while he sleeps, which is in a hospital bed the family already had. He said it's hard sometimes to take it so easy because he's been on several sports teams throughout high school and is used to being very active.

He says when family and friends aren't visiting him at home, he plays video games and watches TV. He can't yet return to school, so he his doing some work from home.

But when you ask Cooper about how he's processing the shooting at prom, he just shrugs.

"I'm kind of bummed to be down right now but I'm thankful and lucky that it was just this and it could have been a lot worse," Cooper said.

He's been bombarded on social media, flooded with questions and friend requests. He's only posted several times since the shooting, with the #AntigoStrong hashtag that's been trending on social media since the prom.

The oldest of five has leaned on his faith, his family and his friends.

"I'm fine I just want people to worry about Collin," said Cooper's friend Spencer Fittante, 17, who was walking out of prom with Cooper when he was shot. Fittante helped tie a his tie around Cooper's leg as a tourniquet.

"I never thought anything like that would ever happen to us, ever," Fittante said.

Still, Cooper won't let the injury keep him from working this summer or walking across the stage at graduation. He joked about practicing walking up stairs with his crutches. He said he thinks his humor helps him cope.

He's proud of and humbled by the Antigo community. He said there are days when it gets hard, but he's got the support of his family and friends. He wants to move on, but he also thinks sharing his experience might be able to help others.

"It's cool to see how the town has rallied around me and the all the other victims," Cooper said. "I think it's kind of a cool opportunity to have to share with people what happened. And I can kind of help them through things too. So I mean I want to put some of it in the past but some of it I want to hold onto so I can be able to help people in the future."

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