11/26/2019- More than five dozen families in our area were impacted by homelessness last year, a figure that officials with the local St. Vincent de Paul conference say is on the rise despite historic low unemployment rates. Marinette’s St Joseph Conference of St. Vincent de Paul assisted 65 families with a total of 150 different individuals experiencing homelessness in the Marinette-Peshtigo School Districts alone since October of 2018. Jeanne Harper with the St. Vincent de Paul says while the jobs may be available locally, affordable housing is not.
“They can have both people working and they still cannot afford the rent of a local apartment. When Marinette Marine got their new contract, costs of apartments increased and so many people were left without a place that they could afford when they’re both working at $8.50/hour jobs.”
At a recent meeting of the Tri City Area United Way Partners, Pete Mayhew, President of the St Joseph Conference shared a request to establish a task force of representatives of local agencies, school districts, and non-profit organizations to specifically explore the growing issue of homelessness in our area. That group is in the process of forming now and Harper says it’s a crucial partnership that she hopes will aid in the development of homelessness solutions and long-term housing and job training initiatives.
“We need some short term grants or loans to defray costs. We need to help them to find other housing. We need to create more beds for emergency shelter. And, the most important thing is we need to pay for skills training…so that they can get (educational) certificates to escape homelessness.”
Harper says while the homeless population is growing, emergency resources for these types of situations are not. If area homeless shelters are full, the St. Vincent de Paul must instead fund temporary housing at a hotel or motel, find available shelter beds outside the region, or in some cases, even provide items that allow these individuals to stay at a local campground.