Advocates warn of increase in people experiencing homelessness this summer

MADISON, Wis. — Groups that prevent and serve people experiencing homelessness are expecting a spike in the number of Wisconsinites without a home.

Up until early this week, landlords were blocked from evicting their tenants. Gov. Tony Evers put that rule into place to prevent people who lost their jobs and could no longer pay rent from losing their homes.

Now shelters and advocacy groups are bracing.

“It’s kind of like waiting on the beach looking for when the tsunami is going to come,” said Joseph Volk, the executive director of the Wisconsin Coalition against Homelessness.

With high unemployment, delayed benefits and now a moratorium on evictions over, Volk thinks it’s only a matter of time.

“I just can’t imagine how those programs are going to deal with the onslaught, frankly, in terms of the numbers that are going to come,” he said.

One of those programs, the Beacon, isn’t sure either.

“At this point, I don’t know,” said Michael Moody, the community and partner relations specialist for the Beacon. “I think we’re all concerned about that. We’re trying to come up with creative alternatives and solutions.”

Moody said the day shelter has secured grants to help. It’s also working with the city of Madison on a plan to keep hotel rooms for those experiencing homelessness through the end of the year.

“With the support of the city keeping a chunk of the homeless population in the hotels, it gives us some room to deal with an increased capacity,” he said.

Volk wants to see more done at the higher level.

His organization has suggested a three-pronged policy approach that uses Medicaid funding for supportive services, rental assistance and state bonding for affordable housing, and creates a homeless employment strategy at the Department of Workforce Development.

Volk said they pushed for an extension on the eviction moratorium, but outside of the public health emergency, the governor’s office says he has no power to do so.

Evers did give $25 million in CARES Act money to rental assistance.

The Beacon is hopeful that even if nothing more comes, local partnerships will help them pull through.

“I feel the nonprofits have really pulled together to support the homeless community,” Moody said. “And I think that’s what it’s going to take.”

The Dane County clerk of courts said the county has not seen a spike in eviction filings since the moratorium was lifted, but workers there are expecting it. Volk said the increase will likely hit at the end of June.