Counting the city’s homeless: Why homelessness is becoming a bigger problem in Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Volunteers in Milwaukee are measuring the city's homelessness problem -- and officials say it's becoming a bigger problem here, for a reason that may surprise you.

In a city where the skyline is populated by high-rises and other buildings, there is a population just under the surface -- or in this case, under the North Avenue bridge, that is slowly becoming more noticeable.

If you know where to look, you can find them -- and what little they have.

"Every bridge you can think of in Milwaukee," Pierre Toussaint said.

Toussaint has been homeless for two to three years -- if not longer.

Twice a year, the state of Wisconsin reaches out to people like Toussaint to determine the number of homeless in the state's cities. Volunteers count the homeless, and that has a direct impact on services and shelters.

"The numbers directly affect the funding," Milwaukee Police Officer Chad Stiles said.

Officer Stiles is part of the Milwaukee Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team. He expects the homeless count will show a steady increase.

His team has grown from two to 29 -- working to help the homeless. But social service haven't kept up.

"Sometimes when someone tells them to go to mission--  they're full up and they turn you away," Toussaint said.

"Sometimes we end up having to keep people in the lobby of the police station," Officer Stiles said.

The homeless are coming to Milwaukee from places like Minneapolis and Chicago -- many believing the healthcare system here provides more benefits.

"They hear that it's better here -- that we have better resources," Officer Stiles said.

The homeless count helps police link the homeless with the resources they need. That can cut down on calls for help.

"There's good people on the police force -- I'm telling you," Toussaint said.

Toussaint recalls struggling to walk one time, and turning to a police officer for help.

"I don't think I can make it the rest oft the way. He says 'get in. Show us where she lives.' Pulled up right in front. I couldn't thank that officer enough. I said 'thank you officer,'" Toussaint said.

"It happens probably more often then you think. It's happening every day in the city of Milwaukee," Officer Stiles said.

1 Comment

  • Ciji

    Keep in mind, many of the homeless population are vets who are severely struggling with being reintroduced into civilian population and people with other mental health problems who don’t know how to get help. There are also people who grew up homeless and that’s all they know how to live. Before you judge, walk a mile in their shoes. Get yourself off your pedestal and thank your parents for teaching you the value of hard work. Your dad sounds like a good man, but without him, you wouldn’t have that know how to work that hard

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