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Group seeks solutions to homeless problem in county

Homelessness is a hidden problem in rural America.

Members of Taylor County Supportive Housing (TCSH) are trying to do something to address this problem in Taylor County.

The group, which has filed for 501c3 status, is a private, nonprofit organization working to bring a homeless shelter facility to the county. The group was formed from public meetings in the spring of 2018 calling for interested community members to work toward housing solutions.

The group is led by Jessica Mudgett who became aware of the homelessness problem through her work with the Taylor County Housing Authority (TCHA).

Mudgett reached out to others who work with homeless population about setting up a stand-alone agency that deals with homelessness in the county. Over the past 18 months since those first meetings, the group has evolved to include a cross section of people including attorneys, social workers and others who are concerned about people having adequate housing security.

Board members include: Lindsay Petersen, Mallori Strama, Theresa Gretzinger, Karl Kelz, Nancy Tiedke, Liza Daleiden, Melanie Fisher, Mudgett and Mike Lindau.

A Medford class donation and the individual board members donated the funds necessary to file for the federal tax-exempt status needed for a charitable organization. They are currently in the process of applying for community development block grant (CDBG) funds through Taylor County to open a shelter in the area. The grant funds the group is seeking are through money the county had through its revolving loan fund program. The state government has taken that money back and eligible groups may apply for grant funding. Mudgett notes this would go a long way toward allowing the group to purchase and convert a building for shelter.

She said ongoing operational funding is available through grants from private foundations and the group has applied for funding through the Taylor County United Way.

While currently a driver for TCSH, Mudgett said she is hoping to be able to step back with plans, if grant funding is successful, to hire a director who will have the task of seeking out additional funding and managing the shelter.

According to Mudgett, the feedback she has received on the project has been for the most part positive with people recognizing the need and wanting to do something to help.

Mudgett said the current measures to help homelessness work on a stop-gap giving people only a night or two or respite. She said it often takes longer than that to get them into permanent housing programs or address the problems that lead to their homelessness. A shelter would relieve the stress on those emergency services while allowing people to gain or keep employment and get back on their feet.

“We can’t expect to cure the problems if we are only putting them up for a night or two,” she said. She noted that for some it is a matter of connecting the people to already existing resources. She said having a 30-day window to work in to help someone is a much less daunting task than having just a two-day window.

She said the group’s focus is to help current county residents in order for them to regain independence and have access to secure, safe housing.

If you would like to donate to Taylor County Supportive Housing, an account has been established at Forward Bank and donations can be mailed to 721 S. 8th St. Medford, WI 54451.

If you would like to see annual contributions to Taylor County Supportive Housing, consider opening a charitable money market at Forward Bank and designate Taylor County Supportive Housing as your charity. They will make a contribution each year on your behalf.