State News

State senate passes two bills to support the state’s homeless population

Legislators passed a pair of bills this week intended to curtail homelessness as the winter approaches.

Image By: Amileah Sutliff

A statewide council to fight homelessness would be created under a bill approved on a nearly unanimous vote Wednesday by the state Senate.

The bill, one of two pieces of legislation targeting homelessness approved by the body, would create an Interagency Council on Homelessness and establish a pilot program that would give those experiencing chronic homelessness higher priority for federal housing choice vouchers.

The council, chaired by Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, will consist of the secretaries of a minimum of eight agencies and will have a director appointed by the Department of Administration.

The goal of the council would be to better coordinate the renewal of outdated policies currently in place, as well as to provide direct help to those suffering from homelessness.

A second bill gives the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority — an agency involved in the development of business in the state — control of a program directly involved in helping the chronically homeless who have been stuck on a waiting list for federal housing choice vouchers.

This is designed to reduce not just the number of people on the waitlist but also the length of the backlog itself, which is currently sitting at over five years to receive a voucher.

The passage of these bills, introduced by state Senator Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, intends to serve as a new push in Wisconsin’s fight against homelessness. In 2015, over 27,500 people in Wisconsin sought shelter or services because they were homeless, Darling told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Together, the bills aim to “streamline and improve policies by enabling agencies to effectively provide services to our citizens,” Darling said in a press release on Tuesday.

“Urban and rural, individuals and families, the challenge of securing stable housing affects people across Wisconsin,” Kleefisch said in a press release. “This new council will serve a vital role breaking down silos between agencies and providing ongoing leadership as we implement these legislative and budget initiatives.”

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