EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WLAX/WEDUX) – They’re hard to miss when visiting parts of Eau Claire. While they are experiencing difficult times. City and county agencies are working together to help them get back on their feet. First News at Nine’s Daniel Gomez has more on the efforts to help Eau Claire’s homeless population.
Walking the streets, and even off the beaten paths, of Eau Claire, police and other agencies search for a connection with the city’s most vulnerable. ECPD Officer, Zac Becker, explains, “We try to get out a couple of times a month. Each time we’ll contact between probably 10 and 20 different homeless individuals.”
Becker is one of the officers working the homeless outreach beat that started just last year. He says, “A lot of businesses have been somewhat frustrated. There’s been the sort of the subjects that have been around the businesses and causing different problems.” He also says the rising needs of the homeless population inspired the program.
Christie Hill is a social worker with the County Department of Human Services. She says, “Housing is a little bit difficult in our area as there isn’t a lot of affordable housing available.”
Hill works alongside officers like Becker looking to offer a helping hand. Hill explains, “Once we’re starting to connect with them, see what the individual’s needs are, making referrals or just providing them information. I have a backpack; I carry resource packets and offer those.”
Becker adds, “We’re trying to make sure that the people who are experiencing homelessness in the area, that they know that there’s resources available to better assist them in their life moving forward.”
Building that bridge is only just the beginning. Becker says, “More or less just an openness on their end to take part in the programs and the different things that we’re offering to try to help them.”
But agencies involved are confident they will help the homeless get back on their feet with enough hard work. Becker says, “I would say that in the past and in my experience, we have a really good working relationship and just a personal relationship with a lot of these people since we do see them a lot.” Hill adds, “Individuals we have met initially would come and they didn’t want to talk to us and, you know, now they’re coming up and saying, ‘hey, it’s you guys’ and shaking our hands.”
The ultimate goal (is) to never see them living on the streets again. Twice a year Wisconsin Dairyland with the help of volunteers takes a head count of the homeless population here in Eau Claire. They have another one coming up in January.