SHEBOYGAN — Some business owners in Downtown Sheboygan are concerned about the increase in homelessness visibility which has been ‘exacerbated’ by the coronavirus pandemic.
This summer, several individuals could be found sleeping in Fountain Park, City Green and on benches that line North 8th Street. Individuals were also spotted sleeping in the Shoreline Metro Transfer Point, in alleys, on benches at Deland Park and on the grounds of Mead Public Library.
There are about 500 homeless individuals in Sheboygan each year according to a housing study commissioned by the City of Sheboygan. The study also found 1,855 households in Sheboygan are low income and have ambulatory or selfcare difficulty. In late July, volunteers with the Lakeshore Community Action Program (CAP) found six people who appeared to be homeless. Additionally, there were 32 people living in shelters that night as well according to Kate Markwardt, the Supportive Housing Program Director for Lakeshore CAP.
In January 2021, volunteers located 21 sheltered homeless individuals.
Some downtown business owners are frustrated with the situation. While they have sympathy for the homeless, their presence has a negative impact on Sheboygan’s reputation. One store owner is further concerned by the recent burglaries that have occurred within the last few weeks.
“We are definitely aware that there are people experiencing homelessness in the downtown area,” said Markwardt. “COVID has exacerbated homelessness and brought to light gaps in local resources.” When asked what the city is doing to address the homelessness problem, District 3 Alderwoman Amanda Salazar did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A majority of the downtown district falls within her aldermanic district. Salazar, who ran unopposed for the council seat in April, is employed by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center which is located in Downtown Sheboygan.
Resources are available
What resources are available for those experiencing homelessness in Sheboygan?
The Salvation Army Emergency Lodge is a 45-bed emergency shelter located at North 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Downtown Sheboygan. It is available seven days a week to assist those who have experienced a crisis leading to homelessness. This is a 30 day program with extension stays available.
For those experiencing domestic violence, the Safe Harbor Emergency Shelter offers housing, food, clothing, support and resources for survivors of domestic violence and their children who are without a safe place to live because of the violence in their lives. The shelter is located at North 9th Street and Niagara Avenue. Residents receive individual case management and assist one another through resident support groups.
A coalition of agencies is developing a motel voucher program with local law enforcement agencies and a warming center will be an option in the winter months. Lakeshore CAP has resources for those experiencing homelessness through their Rapid Rehousing program that can provide financial assistance.
In 2020, the City of Sheboygan provided Lakeshore CAP with $14,859.36 in funding as well as $38,595.74 to the Salvation Army. Both are non-profit organizations and rely on donations from the public as well as grants from community and government agencies.