The number of homeless people found living outside in Racine County during a point in time outreach conducted on July 27 was higher than in past years, said Scott Metzel, executive director of the HOPES Center.
Done twice a year, the national point in time search helps community service agencies working with people who are homeless understand how effective programs have been. The data is also used to help those agencies apply for grants and federal funds.
Homeless and On The Streets On The Rise
The Continuum of Care for the City of Racine and the County met Friday to discuss the results. Metzel, who chairs the point in time outreach, told the group that they found 16 people living outside. In November, no one was found living outside. But Metzel pointed out the July number would likely have been higher if there would have been more volunteers.
The Continuum of Care, a consortium of non-profits, organizes the point in time outreach because it helps them understand how many people are chronically homeless.
“We only had 49 volunteers, we could have used twice as many,” Metzel said. “We (the HOPES Center) did street outreach right after that and found 12 just that morning.”
In November the volunteers didn’t find anyone living out on the street, but last year there were hotel vouchers available through the Continuum of Care after the Hospitality Center closed its emergency shelter. Those funds ran out in March.
“This is not good,” said Ron Thomas, chairman of the Continuum of Care. “It’s not a good sign when you see numbers like this.”
Shelter Options Dwindling
The Love & Charity Mission and Shelter closed its doors in July. The Hospitality Center shut down its emergency shelter, which served over 100 people, in the spring of 2015. The Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization (HALO) also has a number requirements for participants as it does not serve people in its long-term programs with mental health issues or accept people actively drinking or using alcohol or drugs.
But while the number of people living outside in July is substantially higher in July than it was in November, Metzel said that’s largely because people tend to seek shelter in the colder months.
“The shelters in the area are full, the Women’s Resource Center is overflowing and TLC (Transitional Living Center) in Burlington is full.
Sharon Pease, of the Center for Veterans Issues, said there will always be people who are not going to want to go to a shelter. She feels the higher number of people not sheltered is because of the weather.
“In January, it is cold and people tend to seek out shelter,” she said. “But this is certainly more than we’ve found in a while for the summer. Still, it’s not a big surprise.”
Pease believes the community needs to be made more aware of the need for volunteers for the point in time search.
Progress Being Made
With that said, the tiny homes village for veterans is expected to and a wet shelter are close to becoming a reality.
The Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin plans to house the James A. Peterson Veteran Village, community center, tiny homes village, and food pantry at 1624 Yout St. Segue Racine, a group of residents led by local clergy and others, announced in May that they bought a building located at 961 Martin Luther King Dr. They had planned to rehabilitate the former bar into an overnight emergency shelter. But a number of people attending the meeting raised concerns over the location being so close to a school.
Officials with Racine County are helping to find a new location, which is expected to be announced sometime next month, said Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave.
Pease said she attended a conference around issues facing homeless veterans.
“We’re becoming the shining star on a number of issues,” she said. “We’re doing good, it’s working.”