I noticed an article in the news today from Sawyer County, Wisconsin. Admittedly, I noticed it because they use a statistic from our research (“744,313 people experienced homelessness in one night in January 2005”), but the article was an intimate look into homelessness in a quiet, suburban, all-American town: Hayward, Wisconsin.
Hayward, WI is a city in Sawyer County, Wisconsin. The population of Hayward city as of the 2000 census was 2129 people, including 960 households and 529 families. Hayward is a popular vacation and fishing population due to the many lakes in the area.
But in last week’s Sawyer County Record, the local newspaper, reporter Kathy Hanson examines homelessness in the picturesque city, noting that there is more than meets the eye.
Hanson’s article about Hayward touches on several themes that are being felt around the country: an increased request for social services and housing assistance (including Section 8 housing vouchers, shelter beds, and financial support), an increase in homeless families and the number of homeless students, and more and more people relying on family and friends to get by. Hanson also talks with the growing number of direct service providers and local programs who are overwhelmed by the rise in need.
While the city of Hayward is a unique and notably small example (there are more homeless people in the state of Wisconsin – 5658 as of January 2007 – than there are residents of Hayward), the homelessness challenges that it faces are consistent with those being felt in big cities and small towns alike.
Tomorrow, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to release the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR), which will analyze the homelessness numbers and trends from 2008. The Alliance expects to learn how the numbers have changed since 2007, and what the implications of the recession may be, or will be.
In the meantime, the country continues to work through the added challenges of an economic turndown and the existing problems of homelessness and housing.
Here’s to keeping my fingers crossed.