Eau Claire advocates for homeless say shelters are full, waiting lists grow

  • Updated: July 26, 2013 - 10:05 AM

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Advocates for the homeless say Eau Claire shelters are full and the waiting lists are long, despite an improving economy.

The city has several shelters that serve different segments of the homeless population, from single adults to families with children.

Beacon House executive director Kelly Christianson told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram (http://bit.ly/14QkIXE ) that her shelter serves six families at a time.

"And any time a family moves out, we have anywhere from five to 20 families to pick from to replace that family," Christianson said. "So we're certainly not meeting the needs."

Christianson says the Beacon House turned away 715 people in 2012. And regional nonprofit agency Western Dairyland turned away 633 people from its shelters last year because of a lack of space.

"We have a wait list right now that is several families long," said Jeanne Semb, a program manager with Western Dairyland. "We're seeing more people all the time it seems."

At the Sojourner House, a shelter that serves homeless adults in downtown Eau Claire, the number of elderly women seeking shelter beds has increased, according to executive director Dan Robinson.

"We're seeing more and more women and a lot of them are grandmas," Robinson said, explaining many of the women are fleeing abusive relationships. Robinson said Sojourner House has increased the number of beds it offers women from eight to 15 and could add more if demand increases.

Twice a year, local agencies attempt to determine the number of homeless residents through shelter counts and searches for them throughout the community.

Christianson told the newspaper that as the local economy improves, the number of vacant apartments has declined and rents in many cases have increased, making it harder for some people to find an affordable housing.

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