Dear editor,

Where will we be when the money’s run out?

Back to business as usual?

Back to reliance on charity and the overextended effort of well-meaning people forced to deal with a big and growing problem, within a contracting economy, and no formalized plan from our city (Wausau) leaders?

Back to an approach where we’ve seen the percentage of poor Wausonians “living from paycheck to paycheck” increase another 2 points to 48 percent in the last two years? 

Back to an approach that has less than two years left to meet its stated 10-year mission to “end homelessness”?

The Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign wants to know where the city’s plan is to pursue continuous construction of affordable housing units after the 100 ARPA supported units have been filled, leaving hundreds more, and rising, clamoring for a home?

Why does it seem that peoples’ requests to address basic needs are treated like a welfare handout while city business leaders’ requests for millions of dollars in funding or tax abatements are treated like precious gifts to the community? When was the last time the city okayed a quick $1M forgivable loan to bring a needed basic service like they did for Wausau business leaders to purchase the old mall for development intentions in 2019? We should expect them to do the same to meet their self- stated goal to end homelessness within the next two years.

The message of the COW meeting on homelessness last Tuesday was that the old way of relying on charity and a plethora of funding-dependent agencies, intermittently communicating and coordinating with each other, is still the way to go to resolve systemic problems. The suggestion to develop a formalized city-wide plan, coordinate the multitude of efforts, and implement a consolidated push was disregarded as government overreach and simply too difficult to organize. Even the suggestion to add another outreach case manager to help clients navigate through the exhausting maze of agencies received mixed support among members on the council, essentially exhorting extended agencies to stretch themselves further while facing an uncertain future with funding.

With the exceptions of pursuing the viability of a tiny home village to reduce chronic homelessness and a Community Care Paramedics program to reduce unnecessary trips to the ER, it appears the council has decided its effort to spearhead a response to growing poverty and homelessness needs to take a step back. For them, the money has run out, but so is the time in which they have to fulfill their own promise to relieve the struggles of fellow poor and unhoused residents. Yet, recent history proves if there is a will strong enough, there’s a way!

Bruce Grau, Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign, Wausau

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.