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Wisconsin Senate to vote on 1 of 8 homelessness bills: ‘Much more work ahead’

MADISON — The Wisconsin Senate plans to pass one of eight bills designed to fight homelessness in Wisconsin, a bipartisan package that has run into trouble among some conservative senators concerned about the cost.

The Assembly approved all eight bills, which would spend a combined $3.7 million a year, back in June. Advocates, including Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, urged the Senate to give final approval before winter so that services could be bolstered before cold temperatures and snow set in.

The bill up for approval Tuesday is the first of the eight to be slated for a vote in the Senate. It would increase funding for a grant program that provides funding for homeless shelters by $500,000 in each of the next two years. The program received about $1.1 million in state funding for each of the past two years.

Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke sponsored the bill and has championed the homelessness package in the Legislature. He praised the Senate for planning to vote on increasing the grants, but said in a statement Friday that “there remains much more work ahead.” Steineke said he remains focused on trying to get the rest of the bills passed.

The proposals would enact recommendations of a state panel that examined homelessness in Wisconsin, a first-of-its-kind group in the state. In addition to the grants for shelters, the money would also be targeted at efforts to prevent homelessness and get people into more permanent housing.

Passing the homelessness package was part of a “homework assignment” that Evers gave the Legislature earlier this month. The assignment was a list of proposals, most of which had bipartisan support, that Evers wanted Republicans who control the Legislature to approve before adjourning the session this year.

The homelessness measures have broad support from advocates for the homeless and others who have been pressuring the Legislature to act. Groups in support include the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Catholic Conference and Wisconsin Public Health Association.

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