Despite promising efforts, the relentless trauma and indignities of homelessness remain a daily reality for tens of thousands of men, women and children in Wisconsin.
In booming Madison, the homeless live out of vehicles and tents, double up in apartments or motel rooms, or sleep outside on streets lined with posh bars and restaurants surrounding the majestic glow of the Capitol dome. Every day an average of 225 people, including 46 children, seek assistance at The Beacon homeless Day Shelter on Madison's near east side.
In downtown Milwaukee, a tent city of the homeless has spread below a tangle of massive freeway overpasses in a city where 5,163 students in the state's largest school district were homeless in 2018.
The La Crosse Collaborative to End Homelessness has identified 275 adults as homeless, a steady number for eight months. In Green Bay, a shelter helps thousands of homeless annually, with one in five between 18 and 24 years old, leaving advocates concerned about where those young people will be in their 30s and 40s. In Beloit schools, nearly 9% of the student population was homeless last school year.
Also deeply troubling is the striking racial disparity in homelessness in Wisconsin. Blacks account for 6.5 percent of the state population but 39 percent of those receiving homeless services in 2018. The disparity is even worse in Dane County, where blacks comprise 5.1 percent of the population but represent 53 percent of those receiving homeless services last year.
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