Green Bay alderpersons get update on homelessness initiative
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay city council got an in-depth look at a local effort focused on combating homelessness in the Greater Green Bay area through a presentation/initiative from representatives with the Community Housing Initiative at its meeting May 18.
“To end homelessness, that is a really big statement,” said Rashad Cobb, community engagement program officer with the Green Bay Community Foundation and member of the initiative. “We’ve got the right people in place. This is something that is in our reach if we just come together and do what it takes to get it done.”
The initiative is a collective effort between the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition, Brown County United Way, the City of Green Bay, Brown County and the Corporation for Supportive Housing.
Cobb said over the last year, the group has gathered and will continue to gather data both at a service level and from lived experiences to develop a blueprint aimed at preventing and ending homelessness in Greater Green Bay.
“We are going to marry that all together and produce a document that says this is what we heard,” Cobb said. “Then we are going to circle back to all of those people that provided input just to make sure that we analyzed everything properly. And then from there we’ll actually go back and develop our blueprint that we want to release to the community that is actually going to give everyone in the community an opportunity to solve the problem.”
Amy Stetzel, from Corporation for Supportive Housing, said an end to homelessness doesn’t mean no one will experience a housing crisis ever again.
“But when we say we will end homelessness, what that means is we will prevent homelessness whenever possible by decreasing the number of individuals and families that become homeless,” Stetzel said. “We will make homelessness rare by really increasing the number of housing opportunities we have for people throughout the state, (and) increasing access to housing in whatever way we can. We are going to make each episode of homelessness as brief as possible. So shrinking the length of time people are experiencing homelessness. And we are going to end that continuous cycle of homelessness.”
The workgroup hopes to wrap up its research this summer and provide a blueprint to community leadership and the general public in September.
“I think there is some real potential to do some low-cost, no-cost work right away from the get-go,” Stetzel said. “That is looking at policies that we have that might be actually creating barriers that we just didn’t anticipate. I think there is some real potential, and the community has really expressed this, to look at the way we are doing things. Maybe we aren’t talking to each other as well as we should be, or could be. Or maybe we think we are talking to each other well, but actually, we’re not. And so I think there is some good synergy to be doing some of that work right up front could really help decrease some of the population you are seeing in the parks in Green Bay.”
Cobb said while no specific requests were made to the city council Tuesday, support will be needed in the future.
“(We) talk about being careful about laying out specifics before the plan before it’s been baked,” Cobb said. “We’re really still putting all those ingredients together. We just finished up the 16th listening session last week Thursday, so we haven’t had an opportunity to spend time together to pull out exactly what we are going to need from policymakers, like yourselves, but it is to come for sure.”
Stetzel said people don’t just become chronically homeless, it’s a long path to get there, and the work ahead will be challenging.
“There is a lot of trauma, a lot of substance use, there is a lot of years of usually mental health – all that wrapped up,” she said. “And so there are a lot of services these folks need. And so there will be some heavy lifting to address that long-term, but I think there is actually some system and policy work we can do to get people housed or to get them connected to services and make a massive impact for them right away.”