Dear editor,

Isaiah 10, 1-2: “Woe to those who make unjust laws to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

At least 46 percent of our fellow Wausonians struggle to meet basic needs, being one car bill, one ER visit away from being destitute. Our rate of extreme low income per 1,000 exceeds the state’s, as does our income gap. Three hundred and ninety-three stated they faced housing insecurity last year- documented by Bridge Mission – alone.

This is despite the robust charitable efforts this community is known for. 

Yet, as MLK stated: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin at a beggar, … it comes to see that the edifice which produces beggars requires restructuring.” 

How does our community begin such a restructuring?

It takes mobilizing and organizing those most impacted to lead this effort. But this requires ongoing support of basic needs, political education and persistent focused action.

We have seen some positive results with such efforts within the past year and more recently. CCW mobilized impacted residents to shut down Cleveland Avenue to industrial expansion and help push the first in the state environmental justice resolution. 

PPC (Poor People’s Campaign) engaged in a project of survival bringing safe water and filtering systems to people the city did not make an effort to reach with the PFAS contamination of all our wells. The  response that the city did mount was pushed by our advocacy, and efforts by council member Tom Kilian.

Most recently the COTF (Community Outreach Task Force), through devoted service to  their clients, and persistent advocacy to the City Council, has introduced another perspective to the struggle to end homelessness. They have brought impacted people to observe their city representatives in action.

 I think any effort needs to include the following core components:

1. Outreach to people impacted by issues being addressed. Hopefully this would lead to them telling and leading us!

2. Projects of survival. Provide ongoing efforts to provide basic needs (food drives, healthcare, clothing, etc.) to people, while explaining the importance of understanding this situation as a failure in the system that needs changing, not them.

3. Persistent presence in the media and at places where policy decisions are made. Hold our elected officials, some of whom many of you have fought hard to get them there, to act accountably to us, and prioritize the needs of half our fellow citizens.

Some concrete ideas on where to go from here, in line with what I’ve said:

  1. Resurrect the guaranteed basic income grant program which has proven to provide support that leads to stability in a job, housing, and meeting basic needs. It’s on the books. We just need to ask WHEN will we see it implemented?
  2. Support the Statewide Campaign by the PPC to expand Medicaid (MA), stop the potential cutoffs of 300,000 poor and low income from Medicaid, and call for Healthcare for all. This effort  would include providing assistance to MA enrollees to understand their rights and provide support for the appeal process. Fifty percent of disenrolled clients are actually eligible. This effort could lead to an action at the Marathon County Social Service office to protest the disenrollments once they start rolling out April 1 – no fooling. 
  3. Support the COTF recommendations for more case management services and the construction of a Tiny Home Village to address chronic homelessness. A housing first approach guarantees the support needed to rise through the  trauma, addictive behavior and mental illness, as well as financial, career and medical issues to stability. The Police Homeless Outreach is realizing the crucial need for more case management as they are having difficulty keeping unhoused people housed.
  4. Tiny home villages, saturated with social service support provide a proven,  relatively quick, inexpensive and flexible solution that has not been supported by the city leaders to date.
  5. Support for this means showing up to the COW meeting Thursday, Feb. 23, at 5:30. This provides an excellent platform for advocacy, through email, public comment – if allowed, and just being present in support of the effort to bring groups, people and ideas together to decide a path to go where Wausau has not gone before.

Briefly, in closing. In the end, with whom did the Rev. MLK identify, and to whom did he look to lead us to transform the edifice? 

 “ I choose to identify with the underprivileged … the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry … for those who have been left out … This is the way I’m going. If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way … If it means dying for them, I’m going that way.” And, he said:

“The only real revolutionary, people say, is a man who has nothing to lose. There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.”

As with the new Poor People’s Campaign I feel together we can do a lot to help make this happen here in Wausau.                    

Contact us at

Bruce Grau, Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign, Northcentral Chapter

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.