By Raymond Neupert/South Metro Observer
ROTHSCHILD, Wis. – Area leaders and legislators came together Wednesday morning in central Wisconsin to address solving some major social issues for the country’s rural population.
The fifth annual Hunger & Homelessness Summit was hosted by Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy, and attended by U.S. Sec. of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson and Wisconsin First Lady Tonette Walker.
Duffy said that handling these issues can be far more difficult in rural areas simply due to how spread out things are, geographically.
“You can do far more with dollars in a concentrated area in urban America. And this is the concern,” Duffy said. “Whether it’s homelessness, or hunger, or drug abuse, it’s just as profound for our community as it is for urban America.”
Carson told the crowd gathered for the event that the government alone can’t end the problem of homelessness, but that more cooperation between state, federal and local groups needs to happen to help combat issues direct to a community.
One item Carson brought up in his talk was the fact that simply providing a home, without conditions, can be the anchor to bring people hope and bring them out of a cycle of loss.
“A man will not beat addiction from the gutter,” Carson said. “He will not get psychiatric help from under a bridge. He will not find a steady job, without a steady address.”
Providing a safe, permanent place to live can save money in the long run thanks to bringing a person or family in from the street, Carson said.
“It costs us $43,000 to $44,000 a year for a homeless person to sleep on the street. It costs less than half that to house them,” he said.
Carson chalks that cost savings up in reduced costs for emergency room visits, reduced policing, and reduced need for social services.
“Issues like poverty, homelessness and drugs only become tragedies when we accept them and don’t question their presence,” Carson said. “Our most precious resource are our people and we need to start treating them like that again.”
In comments to the media after the event, Duffy said more needs to be done to help fight drug addictions in rural areas and not just in urban communities.
“This isn’t like alcoholism anymore where you can go through outpatient programs,” Duffy said. “You do some of these drugs once or twice and you are addicted for life, and it takes a lot of money and inpatient treatment.”
Duffy said both government and community groups need to treat addition and disease for some drugs differently from how they handle alcohol or marijuana.