Volunteers conduct annual count of homeless population in Fox Cities

Homelessness in the Fox Valley
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:31 AM CST
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Volunteers spent Wednesday night looking for homeless people on the streets in the Fox Valley for the annual Point-in-Time Count.

“You hope not to find anybody. That’s the good news when you don’t find folks... but you are prepared for when you do,” Pillars Executive Director Lisa Strandberg said.

Pillars Supportive Services Director said groups found 22 people living in areas not suitable for habitation.

The Fox Valley Housing Coalition leads the effort to get a sense of the homeless population in our area.

“The purpose of the point in time count is to engage with those individuals and families experiencing homelessness and to try to connect them with community resources,” President of the Fox Cities Housing Coalition Mindy Howell said.

Volunteers and staff from several housing agencies attempt to connect with homeless people and offer them resources. Action 2 News tagged along with one volunteer group, including Strandberg and Appleton Mayor Jake Woodford on their route.

“We have to remember that when we find someone during the count in the middle of the night we are entering their home. Whatever shape that takes for them,” Strandberg said. “You see a mattress. You might see a tent. You might see some food waste, some packaging from food that folks have eaten”

“The winter count is usually a little bit lower. It’s my opinion that family members or friends are more willing to let people in when it’s cold,” Howell continued. “In the summer, it’s more like ‘OK, go fend for yourself because it’s not so cold.’”

Pillars, based in Appleton, offers shelter and resources for people looking for a place to live. The organization says the Fox Cities has seen an increase in homeless people and families looking for support.

Strandberg told Channel 2, “Many people choose to live differently for many reasons and we want to meet them where they’re at and get them what they need in order to live stably.”

In January 2022, volunteers counted 19 people living on the streets.

Volunteers also do a count in July.