Byron Wright, co-chair of the Emergency Services Network of Kenosha County, center, discusses the difficulties the homeless face in Kenosha County and the challenges those who wish to help are up against (Gail Peckler-Dziki/The Report).

Officials discuss ways to help people move forward

By Gail Peckler-Dziki

Representatives from agencies in Kenosha County and Wisconsin gathered at The Sharing Center on Sept. 12 to pool information about the homeless problem.

Those who attended the meeting were Mike Basford, director of the Wisconsin Interagency Council on Homelessness; state Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha; Byron Wright, co-chair of the Emergency Services Network of Kenosha County; Lisa Haen and Veronica Judon, Kenosha Human Development Services; Laurie McDonald, United Way of Kenosha County; Paul Gagliardi, Sharing Center board chair; Madeline Carrera, Gateway Technical College; Karen Kempinen, CUSH (Congregations United to Serve Humanity); Brittanee Arnold and Julie Lord, Sharing Center; and Sharon Pomaville, Sharing Center director.

Madeline Carrera, coordinator of the Gateway Impact program, presented information detailing the extent of the problem in rural Kenosha County.

She reported that more than 200 people are “unstably housed” and nine who are homeless.

The term unstably housed, encompasses a number of challenges, such as having trouble paying rent, overcrowding, moving frequently, staying with relatives or spending the bulk of household income on housing. Often family members are living apart in different places.

The best way to combat homelessness is to prevent it. Judon explained that rapid re-homing is a method whereby the family or individual bypasses shelters.

However, there is money available in the form of HUD grants to assist with rapid re-homing. The problem is that housing costs have outpaced wages in the area and the amount allowed for housing grants, which is $628 per month.

About 58 percent of the homeless are employed and can’t find an affordable place to live.

Pomaville said the food pantry is often the first place folks go when trouble hits because it’s the first line of defense against homelessness.

“Families quickly see when they are short of food and they come in for that,” she said. “Then as we talk to them, we can ascertain what other needs they have, be-cause by the time they are short of food they need other things.

“We can help families find other resources that might help them stay in the home so they don’t end up homeless,” Pomaville added.

One way the center does that — and one way folks in this area can help their neighbors — is through a rent/mortgage assistance program.

“There are times when the main breadwinner is ill or injured and out of work for a short time,” Pomaville said. “We look at the financial situation, and if we determine that once the immediate crisis is over, they can continue to maintain their home and we can assist them for a month or so. This is not long-term, permanent aid, just help to get to the other side.”

Money is provided through various grants and private donations. To become involved, call Pomaville at 262-298-5535.


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