Statewide plan targets homelessness in Wisconsin

NOW: Statewide plan targets homelessness in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A council tasked with reducing Wisconsin's homeless population approved an action plan Tuesday that would prioritize putting the homeless into permanent housing without strict preconditions, among other things.

The Wisconsin Interagency Council on Homelessness, which was formed last year and includes representatives from government agencies and groups that serve the homeless, unanimously backed the plan, said the council's director, Michael Luckey.

The plan employs a Housing First model, which puts chronically homeless people into permanent housing with support services and without the precondition of having no addictions or convictions, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch came to The Guest House shelter in Milwaukee to help announce the plan called "A Hand and a Home."

"I feel we're digging deep and looking out into the future," Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who chairs the group, said Monday. "It's not only a report. It's not only a white paper. It's truly an action plan."

The plan also emphasizes case management, which is linked to better housing outcomes, better physical and mental health, decreased substance abuse, better re-entry to society and decreased cost of emergency responses.

"We can't just do housing and leave someone alone and assume it's going to work out," Kleefisch said.

Almost 22,000 homeless people last year received services from Wisconsin agencies, with more than 3,470 people spending the night in places not meant for human habitation each winter night, according to the plan.

The council is also calling for an additional $3.75 million in spending, as well as collaboration between the state, school districts, nonprofits and the private sector.

Joesph Volk, executive director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Homelessness, said he's happy with the direction of the council's plan.

"It has depth. It is comprehensive," he said. "I think it's a very good first step."

Volk said he believes the state should invest more money in connecting homeless people to jobs and subsidizing low-cost housing development.

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