Homeless in Wisconsin: good news and bad news Print
Thursday, Dec. 01, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

Which would you rather hear first, the good news or the bad news?

When it comes to homelessness in Wisconsin, let’s talk about the good news first.

Wisconsin statistics

According to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the number of homeless people in Wisconsin has decreased. In one category — homeless and unsheltered veterans — Wisconsin has one of the lowest rates in the country at 3.6 percent.

Unsheltered persons, by the way, are people who stay in places not meant for human habitation, such as the streets, abandoned buildings, vehicles, or parks.

However, the bad news is that there are still 534 homeless and 19 unsheltered veterans in Wisconsin, according to the annual HUD Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

National level

On a national level, between 2007 and 2015, we have more good news. Forty states and the District of Columbia experienced declines in chronic homelessness.

But the bad news is that there were still more than 564,708 people homeless on a given night in our country.

And these people are not just statistics — they are human persons: individuals, families with children, and unaccompanied children. Many homeless persons, sadly, continue to be veterans.

What can we do?

So progress has been made, but more obviously needs to be done. What can we do?

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the main reason people experience homelessness is because they cannot find housing they can afford.

“It is the scarcity of affordable housing in the United States, particularly in more urban areas where homelessness is more prevalent, that is behind their inability to acquire or maintain housing,” says the alliance.

One way to help is to advocate for policies and programs that effectively serve homeless people on the local, state, and federal levels. We can support plans that will create more affordable housing. We can share our concerns with public officials and the media: tell them that ending homelessness is important to us.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness can help you connect with local and national advocacy efforts. You can sign up for their periodic Advocacy Updates at

Local efforts

In the Diocese of Madison, we can support the work of Catholic Charities in their new Homeless Day Resource Center, which is expected to open in downtown Madison in the summer of 2017.

For information on donating to Catholic Charities, go to

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul throughout our diocese also provides assistance to homeless people. Check with your local conference to see how you can help.

If we work together, we can end homelessness in our communities. Maybe one day, we will only have good news to report!