RACINE COUNTY — A well-regarded state homelessness initiative is stuck in limbo as Gov. Tony Evers’ administration settles into office.
The Wisconsin Interagency Council on Homelessness was founded by unanimous votes by both the state Assembly and Senate in November 2017. The group still technically exists, but it doesn’t have any current members since Gov. Tony Evers hasn’t appointed anyone to it yet, according to HALO Executive Director Gai Lorenzen.
“I think he will (appoint members). I hope he does,” Lorenzen said. “I think it’s just a transition.”
Lorenzen said that representatives from homelessness and housing advocacy groups across the state have tried contacting the governor about getting the ICH started again, but haven’t had any luck in actually getting to speak with him.
“There’s so many people who want to talk to the governor,” Lorenzen said. “We just want to get our foot in the door to talk to him.”
Under Gov. Scott Walker, the council was chaired by former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. Its members included a representative from each of the eight executive branch agencies and one representative from each of Wisconsin’s four Continuums of Care, which are collections of homelessness-related community organizations.
Evers’ office didn’t reply to an email sent Friday regarding the new governor’s plans for the council on homelessness.
A presented plan
In November, soon after Walker lost the gubernatorial election to Evers, the ICH presented an action plan. That plan emphasizes a “housing first” approach — already utilized by Racine’s Continuum of Care — and encourages case management for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
It also called for $3.75 million in additional homelessness-related state spending.
“I feel we’re digging deep and looking out into the future,” Kleefisch told the Wisconsin State Journal in November. “It’s not only a report. It’s not only a white paper. It’s truly an action plan.”
The State Journal called the plan “perhaps the state’s most coordinated, deepest attempt to prevent and curtail homelessness.”
However, the plan — titled “A Hand and a Home: Foundations for Success” — may have difficulty picking up momentum while the ICH lies dormant.
“The homeless problem is a real burden on local government,” Wirch told The Journal Times last month. “I’ve seen too many legislative council studies come forward and put on a shelf and gather dust. We think this is too important.”