Letter to the Editor: Homelessness in Eau Claire

‘Tis the season to openly state our needs and wants with the expectation of receiving our requests. In the middle of our self-focus and enjoyment of receiving and giving gifts, we have forgotten a part of our population that has little hope of experiencing the same.

Homeless individuals do not see the holidays through the same lens as the average college student who generally focuses their worries on purchasing gifts.

Worrying about what to buy their best friend and family is a concern but most definitely not the greatest. Rather, the thought that plagues homeless peoples’ minds the most is staying warm and getting the transportation to meet their basic needs.

Eau Claire has made great strides to help homeless individuals, but the facts do not lie.

For every 10,000 people in the United Stated there are 20 homeless people. Most who are homeless live in shelters or transitional housing and 38 percent are unsheltered.

According to endhomelessness.org, the percentages of homeless people who are unsheltered are left living on the streets, in their cars and in abandoned buildings. In Wisconsin, 6,104 people were estimated to live in homelessness in 2013. That is approximately one to nearly three percent of the total population.

Furthermore, according to the 2013 United States Census Bureau, approximately 15.1 percent of people living in Eau Claire County were living below the poverty line as compared to 12 percent in all of Wisconsin between 2007 and 2011.

So what does this all mean? Eau Claire is not an exception to the rule. Our beloved city is home to homeless and impoverished individuals that need our help.

As a group we conducted research and now know how important it is to become advocates for homelessness. Besides volunteering, we have worked alongside the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 305 to gift the Sojourner House with a substantial sum of money.  As college students, this may be overwhelming but there are things that you can do to help alleviate the concerns surrounding homelessness.

One main way to volunteer is through Re-entry Advocacy Coalition.  This program works to assist a homeless member of the community through services such as job, housing, transportation and school and assistance applications.

A second option is to volunteer at local shelters, there are numerous shelters in Eau Claire, specifically downtown. If this does not appeal to you, many homeless individuals need clothes, toiletries and non-perishable food to survive. Students can donate to local food pantries and clothing closets in order to help. If you are interested in becoming an advocate, please consult agencies in your area.

— A team of concerned future social workers

Social work majors Jason Bryant, senior; Dani Fiebelkorn, junior; Kandice Kline, senior; Courtney Ostert, senior; Kathryn Owens, junior; Meghan Pierce, senior; Bethany Sekora, junior and Kathy
Stewart, junior