MILWAUKEE (SPECTRUM NEWS) -- With temperatures dropping overnight, warming shelters are opening across Milwaukee. One advocacy group is on a mission to get an accurate count of those in need of shelter to better provide support for the adults, veterans, and families impacted by homelessness,
Repairers of the Breach is one of Milwaukee’s only daytime homeless shelters. To receive services here, Executive Director James West says all you have to have is a need.
West has seen a need for shelter more frequently in recent months.
“In December, we had an average of 165 people a day, so it’s rising,” said West.
That’s up from serving between 80 and 100 visitors a day here back in 2018.
Raised in the inner-city of Milwaukee, West says he now serves the very people who lived in his neighborhood growing up.
“It’s heartbreaking, but in my role, you can’t get too emotional you have to do the best that you can to help,” said West.
That’s where the Milwaukee Continuum of Care is stepping in.
The homelessness advocacy group is trying to get a firm handle on the exact number of individuals living without shelter across the city.
“All our warming rooms will open their doors. We’ll have our street outreach, boots on the ground hitting the streets making sure their accounting for everyone that outside and we count them,” said, Nancy Esteves, Homeless Management information systems, Manager for Milwaukee Co.
This annual initiative is called, Point in Time Homelessness Count.
Its data in recent reports shows the counts over the last decade have helped track a 77% decrease in chronic homelessness.
The term describes people who are without shelter for at least one year.
While that number is going down, Esteves says overall homelessness is up with another large population taking its place.
“Our most invisible population which is our youth, anybody under the age of 24, either parenting or single,” said Esteves.
Data gathered from Wednesday night’s count will help the city determine the areas of homelessness in need of the most money and care.
“We have six warming rooms that will open for the night,” said Esteves.
That includes St. Ben’s. When temperatures drop below 20-degrees, it serves up to 85 men and women.
“The month of December we were open nine straight days around the 6th to around the 17th and we were basically at capacity,” said, Brother Robert Wotypka, Ministry Director, Capuchin Community services.
Despite the overall, homelessness uptick in Milwaukee, both west and Brother Robert are optimistic the annual count will eventually show positive results.
“People care because resources are being surfaced and because the actions that are being taken are effective,” said Brother Robert.
Esteves says results from the point in time count will be completed by April.