Wausau has a new homelessness liaison
Wausau has appointed a new officer to work with the homeless population and connect them to services and resources available in the city.
Tracy Rieger, former director of community facilities for the homeless at Wausau Catholic Charities, assumed the responsibilities of Community Outreach Specialist on September 1.
“I am thrilled to work for the City of Wausau, as a Community Outreach Specialist, for the homeless population of Wausau,” Rieger told Wausau Pilot & Review. She added that over the past five years, these residents “have become an extension of my family.”
Rieger said one of his goals is to continue to provide solutions-based options for homeless people while keeping the larger needs of the community front and center.
Outreach Specialist, a non-sworn position replacing a sworn officer, reports to the Wausau Police Department. Sworn officers usually have powers of arrest and carry a weapon. Unsworn posts do not carry firearms and have no powers of arrest.
Speaking to the city’s human resources committee in May, Wausau police Benjamin Bliven said the police department had received numerous complaints from downtown business establishments and the library about homeless residents – that they aggressively begged, loitered, fought and used public spaces to urinate. and defecation. He requested the creation of the new position to better solve the problem.
About two weeks later, at a finance committee meeting, Bliven suggested that the position be funded entirely, at $100,000, by state and local coronavirus fiscal stimulus funds from American Rescue. Plan for 2022. At that time, new hire was expected to start on July 1.
According to the city’s human resources department, Rieger is a full-time employee with an annual salary of about $65,000.
Bliven is out until September 21. Deputy Police Chief Matthew Barnes did not respond to questions about the community outreach specialist position.
Wausau plans to operate a year-round warming center
For some time now, Wausau leaders have been discussing ways to address homelessness in the city, including providing more affordable housing. The City of Wausau and Marathon County are in dire need of affordable housing for low-income people.
Some homeless residents say they can afford to pay rent for their own apartments, but landlords don’t trust them. Landlords typically ask for rental histories and reference checks, which homeless people cannot provide. Some are hampered by histories of crime and substance abuse.
As a result, many are forced to spend nights at the warming center run by Catholic Charities, which is open during the colder months of the year. Now, if a proposal by Catholic Charities, backed by Mayor Katie Rosenberg and Bliven, is approved by the Finance Committee and Wausau City Council, the center will open year-round.
The Wausau Police Department has prepared a proposal requesting ARPA funds to operate the center from May 1 through October 31, when it is normally closed. On Aug. 23, Bliven told the Finance Committee, where ARPA applications are submitted, that Catholic Charities of Wausau has expressed willingness and interest in opening the shelter year-round. But, the police chief added, they have a shortfall of $270,000 a year to run a center year-round.
Committee members briefly discussed whether the center should be open only at night throughout the year or be open 24/7. The committee asked the police department to prepare a formal proposal for its classification. If the finance committee and city council approve the proposed budget, the center would operate year-round.