Housing needs outpace resources for area homeless - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Housing needs outpace resources for area homeless

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Chippewa Falls (WQOW)- With temperatures dropping, area homeless shelters say they've been flooded with needy families looking for a warm place to stay.  A lack of funding means some of those shelters have to turn families away and they say if it keeps happening, the shelters themselves could disappear.

"We are always full," says Stepping Stones Shelter Coordinator Heidi Hooten.  "The need is greater than what we can provide."

Stepping Stones in Menomonie says it's had to turn away more than 200 families this year because it doesn't have any extra room for them. 

The shelter houses eight bedrooms and families can stay there up to 30 days.  Typically, 10 to 15 families wait their turn for a room.  It's not run on a first come, first serve basis, but by need.

"If I have somebody that's couch surfing with a friend and somebody else calls me up and says I'm living in my car out at exit 45, I'm going to take the person living in their car before I'll take somebody who is in a safe, warm environment," Hooten explains.

Stepping Stones isn't alone. Beacon House in Eau Claire says it has up to 20 families asking for a place to stay for every one room that's made available. And it's a problem Starting Points in Chippewa Falls is all too familiar with.

Guests of Starting Points stay at the Harmony House in Chippewa Falls.  But there's only so much room and when room runs out, Starting Points has to send others to hotels and motels in the area so they can still have a roof over their heads.

"Local motels, they are great, they are wonderful to us, but it's an expensive way to shelter people," says Starting Points Executive Director Mary Clay Santineau.

Starting Points operates on a $150,000 a year budget.  But recent cutbacks have the shelter only receiving very little in grants so it has to raise the rest of the money through fundraisers.

"Funding that used to be there from the state and federal government isn't there anymore and it's a matter of how are we going to continue these programs?" questions Santineau.

If you'd like to donate food or money to Starting Points, you can call (715) 726-7937.  If you'd like to donate to Stepping Stones, you can call (715) 235-2920.

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