November Series to Focus on Ways to Combat Homelessness in Wood County
For the City Times
Submitted by members of the South Wood County Homelessness Coalition
November is National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Month. Food and shelter are a struggle for a number of community members right here in south Wood County. Throughout the next five weeks you will learn about what organizations, agencies, programs, businesses and community groups are doing to address these issues, what resources are available in our community, as well as real life stories of those who have experienced food insecurities and/or homelessness.
This article will highlight community data and coalitions that work directly to increase access to food and shelter.
In 2016, United Way’s 2-1-1 received 389 calls needing assistance with housing as the caller was already or about to become homeless and 271 calls for assistance getting food.
The members of the South Wood County Homelessness Coalition reported serving almost 600 individuals who were about to become or had become homeless in 2016.
The members of the South Wood County Hunger Coalition reported providing food 34,916 times in 2016, with a little over 16,000 of those alone being warm meals served to community members.
According to the United Way of Wisconsin ALICE Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), 42 percent of households struggled to afford basic household necessities in 2014.
“ALICE families work hard to earn above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), but not enough to afford a basic household budget of housing, child care, food, transportation and health care” – United Way of Wisconsin ALICE Report.
To learn more about United Way of Wisconsin ALICE Report, visit: https://www.uwiw.org/alice.
The South Wood County Homelessness Coalition consists of 21 community partners working together to provide resources, education and services to residents facing homelessness. North Central Community Action Program facilitates the bi-monthly meetings and anyone interested in this topic is welcome to join the discussion.
The mission is to eliminate homelessness in south Wood County. We plan to accomplish this mission by: understanding the issue, working together, educating the community, preventing homelessness, and funding solutions. We know that homelessness in south Wood County looks different than in large cities. Our local homeless are living in shelter, temporary foster care, transitional housing, or maybe with another family member of friend. Some of our accomplishments are: a State of the Homeless infographic which was used at a community discussion with community members in the spring of 2017 who wanted to learn more around this topic and a booklet of resources with program descriptions and contact information that was completed and has been distributed to organizations in the community who may work with those community members facing homelessness.
To view the State of the Homeless infographic, visit: https://www.uwiw.org/homelessness-coalition.
In 2012, United Way of Inner Wisconsin invited food providers, those who help to address hunger issues and other members of the community to come together to form the South Wood County Hunger Coalition. The Coalition is fighting hunger in our community by working collectively toward a common goal. The Coalition has formed working committees in the following areas: access to healthy and nutritious foods, outreach and advocacy for those facing hunger, educating the community on hunger, and research – to determine the current/future needs of food programming in our community. Some of our accomplishments: in 2017 we held our Fifth Annual United We Can event, and created and distributed a “Food Provider List.” The “Food Provider List” has contact information and descriptions of local resources. The document also lists local vendors that accept WIC and FoodShare benefits.
To view the Food Provider List, visit: https://www.uwiw.org/hunger-coalition.
The Homelessness and Hunger Coalitions are collaborating and hosting poverty simulations for Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa and Port Edwards School district staff members during professional development days this fall. The two hour simulation which will challenge participants to try to secure healthy food while utilizing local resources to do so with limitations, such as lack of money or transportation for example, will give participants an opportunity to experience what some community members encounter when trying to access food and shelter. The simulation has the capacity to include up to 50 participants at each simulation. The goal of the simulations is to create awareness and foster discussions to better understand the barriers and challenges that community members may face to secure food or shelter.
In addition to the weekly articles found here in the City Times, representatives from local agencies will be sharing information on their programs and services during segments on WFHR, AM 1320, throughout the month of November.
Homelessness and Hunger are realities that, unfortunately, too many in our community face. We hope that you learn something new and when you do, you share what you have learned with a co-worker, neighbor, friend or family member. As you will learn in the upcoming weeks, there are many programs and services in place to assist those who face these insecurities. What we as a community still have to figure out and work on together is how to help our neighbors, friends, and co-workers, so they do not have to worry about when they are going to eat their next meal or where they are going to sleep tonight.