Last week, the Wausau City Council voted to implement a police ordinance to limit loitering by homeless people.
Apparently, this move adds to their established compassionate plan to address the problem of homelessness. Unfortunately, no one on the council was able to elaborate on just what that plan consisted of.
Most time and energy of the discussion was spent on most members defending the ordinance, despite overwhelming concern expressed by the community members who spoke.
Unless the root cause and major obstacles are identified, confronting homeless people in a parking lot won’t work.
From what I can tell, the root cause comes down to prioritizing of limited funds, and values ( ie., self-serving vs. humanitarian, personal choice vs. environment, trickle down vs. bottom-up). For the most part, meeting human needs don’t trump these two factors, particularly for working class people.
The city and Marathon County are charged with public service yet given decreasing funds to do it. In our area, the two entities don’t work together. I would like to see a cost-benefit analysis of the programs the city and county fund and ask who is benefiting most from these programs.
For example, who has benefited most from development of the River District? The myriad of shiftless developers or has it created a significant number of good paying jobs with benefits to area workers? Has it even been able to return to the city the amount of our tax dollars given to it? My impression is the city sees business development as the only means to creating decent jobs.
Decent jobs, ie. $15 minimim/hour, create stability in many ways and prevent disasters like homelessness (75 percent of whom are temporarily thus). Decent jobs with high wages bring more money into the coffers of local government, so would higher taxes on those few who make the most.
The public then needs to assertively/persistently direct the local, state and national leaders to get together and funnel this money into programs that benefit the many over the few.
In the meantime, trying to learn and work from those who have been successful at addressing homelessness makes sense to me. Would Habitat for Humanity consider building tiny homes or remodel current structures? Is there any duplication of services between city and county already addressing this issue that could be fused? The city says they have been addressing this problem for years, how exactly, and could that be expanded? Any way to facilitate more cooperation between city and county decision makers to solve common problems?
The recent decision allowing the police to address the homeless crisis will accomplish nothing positive if the root causes and identification of major obstacles are not seriously addressed.
Bruce Grau of Wausau
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