- You might associate homelessness with big cities rather than the Northwoods. But one local group is making sure we don't forget it's an issue here.
The Northern Wisconsin Initiative to Stop Homelessness did their bi-annual homeless count last week. The numbers are typically low, but the problem is still real.
Chronic homelessness is when a person is homeless for more than a year, or homeless many times. Often times they have a disability, mental health issues or abuse drugs and alcohol.
Lori Hallas is the Team Leader of Housing at Forward Services Corporation. She says Northwoods homelessness is more situational.
"Typically people who are homeless are homeless because of lack of jobs, maybe they're living paycheck to paycheck and they became ill. A lot of kids are homeless because of turning 18, or maybe they are aging out of foster care," says Hallas.
The homeless count happens twice a year, statewide. There usually aren't huge numbers of people actually sleeping outside here in the Northwoods. But their study brings awareness to homelessness in the area.
"It helps to identify gaps, it helps to identify what the situations are, and it also helps get funding into the state," says Hallas.
That funding eventually makes its way up here to help out with temporary housing programs.
One of those temporary housing programs is in Rhinelander. Today is Frederick Place's 18 month anniversary. So far 155 people have called it home, but more than 100 have been turned away because it was full.
"We're back to 14 again in the house; this past Friday we were at 16. Sixteen is max. I do again currently have eight individuals on the waiting list, so two families of four that are on the waiting list," says Executive Director Tammy Modic.
Modic says community support for Frederick Place has been remarkable. But she agrees with Hallas, in that homelessness in the Northwoods isn't always obvious. It all goes back to the idea of homelessness only being an urban problem.
"Urban homelessness is what you see on TV: the people under the bridges, people with the cardboard boxes standing out by the bin with the fire. But for the most part rural homelessness is not seen, is not visible. So that's why people believe that it's not here, 'How could you have had 155 people call this place home? I don't see anybody out on the streets'," says Modic.
In addition to the 100 turned away because the house was full, another 80 didn't meet compliance requirements.
Modic wants the community to know they've upheld their promise to keep Frederick Place a zero tolerance facility for drugs and alcohol.