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Letter: Homelessness is not just a downtown problem

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To the Editor-

In response to a recent Letter to the Editor (Downtown homeless problem needs addressing) and the visible aspects of homelessness, or more accurately, the struggles of the un-sheltered.

First, I agree with the premise that homelessness needs to be addressed; but it is more than just a ‘downtown’ problem. I recently served on the Stevens Point Housing Advisory Task Force and it allowed for a great deal of discussion about the overall picture of housing within the city of Stevens Point.

Our work as members of the advisory task force was to help address the housing needs across a wide range of housing issues, the main one being affordable housing that would attract and retain a vibrant and growing workforce for the years ahead; this is of concern and benefit to the entire Portage County and surrounding area.

The task force also heard many stories and anecdotes about how citizens experience the housing situation as renters and homeowners, including where the gaps and challenges are — some examples included how to help those who have various disabilities and need to have live-in caretakers and how zoning affected the options available to them, and how to live more independently and with dignity.

We also studied data that showed about a third of the population is spending alarming percentages of their income on housing, often approaching, or exceeding 50 percent of their income, which is unsustainable.

While the free market economy might be very efficient, left alone it cannot solve all the needs — so yes, housing for everyone needs to be addressed. The best way for that to happen is for local political governments to join forces and create coalitions to act at the local and state level, and at a minimum acknowledge that it is not the responsibility of nonprofits to fix what are sometimes macroeconomic problems such as low wages, lack of affordable housing and public transportation that is inadequate. It’s a package deal, and we can’t isolate the problem to just one community. Demand better on behalf of everyone.

BobbieJoy Amann