In search of affordable housing
By Lori Adler, reporter
In Rhinelander and the greater Oneida County area, as well as much of the Northwoods, affordable housing is not very easy to find. While this can be a budget constraint for many, the lack of affordable housing for some can lead to homelessness.
Though there is a long list of contributing factors to homelessness, access to affordable housing ranks high. Newcap, an agency which serves 12 northeastern Wisconsin counties, including Oneida, offers a number of housing programs for people in need, but finding appropriate housing can often be difficult.
“Affordable housing in general is a huge issue, especially in the areas I cover,” said Makenna Kalata, coordinated entry specialist and crisis navigator for Newcap. “Even our case managers have a hard time finding places for our clients to be able to get into because there’s just nothing they can afford in our area.”
Though Newcap has programs to help people in various stages of housing crises, the funding for these programs is limited, and since housing costs are high, this limits the number of people who can receive help. As such, the waiting lists can be long, which means that those already homeless and in need of emergency shelter and those facing eviction and needing one-time or ongoing financial assistance may not get help when they really need it or just may not get help at all.
Affordable housing and funding issues are a huge concern for those who deal directly with these issues. However, Kalata explains many people in the Northwoods do not see the problems. Until the issue of homelessness is fully recognized, it cannot be fully addressed.
“There is poverty here, and we’re just not seeing it because we are so busy with our own lives and aren’t able to even think about other people that are possibly sleeping out on the streets tonight or a whole family that’s been staying in their vehicle for a month.” Kalata said. “I think we’re just kind of blind to seeing these things.”
Though a major contributor, the lack of affordable housing is far from the only cause for homelessness. For individuals and families alike, the cause for homelessness is generally a combination of issues rather than just one main concern.
“It’s a very hard thing to try and fix or cure completely. It would be amazing to say that yes, if we just did A, B and C, we could cure homelessness altogether, but I don’t necessarily think that’s accurate,” Kalata noted, later adding, “I’d love to say that we could cure it completely, but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of money to completely eliminate the issue. “
Newcap services include referrals to area shelters, a short-term motel voucher program, an eviction intervention program, and a Section 8 rent assistance program. Makenna Kalata is the representative for Forest, Langlade, Oneida and Vilas counties. Anyone experiencing a housing crisis can reach Kalata at 715-478-3871 or visit her Newcap office at 212 North Lake Ave., Crandon.