LA CROSSE Wisc. (WLAX/WEUX) – The city of La Crosse is partnering with La Crosse County on a new way to help residents dealing with homelessness. The city of La Crosse is using 700-thousand dollars in federal COVID relief funds to house the community’s homeless in the Econo Lodge. The entire hotel is rented out through March… a tight deadline for the city to determine its next steps.

“We have over 100 people housed at the Econo Lodge right now, and in April we need to have another solution for many of those people because many of them are going to find homes between now and then, but a lot of them aren’t.”, said Mayor Mitch Reynolds.

One potential long-term option: purchasing the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce building to accommodate their spatial needs. The cost of the building is two million dollars, a price tag that would once again be covered with La Crosse’s share of American Rescue Plan funding. Associate county administrator Jane Klekamp says the proposal includes building a type of housing on the site that currently isn’t available.

“Right now, in La Crosse, either the city or the county, there is nothing that is called bridge housing, so this would fill a niche that is currently unfilled in the community. If it’s approved, there would be apartments built on the parking lot, and it would be a place where people could stay until they find a permanent home.”, said Klekamp.

In addition to the new construction, the existing building would serve as a clearinghouse for agencies that work with the homeless.

“There would be implementation teams set up, one is for housing specifically, one would be about programming, how does that work, who’s responsible, who will do what, all of those will be drafted, discussed, talked about.”

Mayor Mitch Reynolds says the plan is part of an ongoing commitment to help those who deal with housing insecurity.

“Ideally, the solutions that we come up with will minimize that to the extent possible, but you don’t reach an endpoint with homelessness and say okay we’re done, it’s a continued effort and continued concentration on making sure that not only are you finding solutions, but you’re shepherding people towards positive outcomes.”, said Reynolds.

Reynolds says the city’s newly hired Homeless Services Coordinator will be responsible for those outcomes. The proposal is still in its early stages and would need approval from both the La Crosse City Council and County Board of Supervisors to move forward.