Don’t let stereotypes stop shelter project
Where are you sleeping tonight?
If you are one of the thousands of rural Wisconsin residents facing housing insecurity, that question is a tough one. Perhaps your bed is a friend or family member’s couch or living room floor. You fear overstaying your welcome and try to ignore the whispered conversations of your hosts.
Perhaps you spend your nights in your car, parked in some out of the way spot. On nights, like recent ones, with severe cold weather you are forced to play on the razor’s edge between frostbite and carbon monoxide poisoning as you attempt to make it through another night.
If you are lucky, you are able to stay in a motel room, using one of the limited vouchers available. You will have access to a shower and a warm bed, if only for a few nights.
If you are like the majority of adults who face housing insecurity in rural areas, you likely have a job and perhaps children who are attending school. You hope teachers don’t notice when your children wear the same clothes days in a row or are understanding when the stress of not having a home shows itself in behavioral or educational issues.
You scrimp and save to get an apartment. Even with rent assistance programs the wait times can be months and the options limited.
A group of Taylor County residents is working to improve the lives of those facing housing insecurity. Taylor County Supportive Housing is working to use grant dollars to open a “transitional housing” center in the area. The facility will be called “Taylor House.” When it eventually opens it will provide a place for people as they work to secure permanent housing.
The challenge has been finding a suitable location for Taylor House. There are plenty of opinions from people about where the facility should not be located. Petitions have been launched to keep it out of residential areas and elected officials report being flooded with phone calls over the recent proposal to convert a commercial building for that purpose.
For some, the opposition is a “not in my backyard” knee-jerk response based on incorrect stereotypes or judgmental assumptions about why people face housing insecurity. Others have more legitimate concerns about the impact such a facility will have on their property values or potential to drive away customers.
There are always plenty of reasons to oppose anything new. It is time for civic leaders at the county and city level to work together with the board of TCSH and move quickly to find a suitable location in or near the city of Medford for this needed facility and in the process help our down-on-their-luck neighbors get a chance for the fresh start that comes with knowing where they are going to sleep tonight.