Written by Ben Lee
The Marathon County Housing Task Force was created by Police Chief Ben Bliven partially in response to the City of Wausau’s loitering ordinance that went into place in November of 2019. The community response to that ordinance warranted a larger discussion on how to help better serve our homeless population.
In December of 2019, Chief Bliven convened local leaders from City Government, non-profit agencies, and organizations looking to help strategize a solution for our homeless population. Once those team members were identified, Chief Bliven brought in the Marathon County Health Department to facilitate Results-Based Accountability training for our dedicated Housing Task Force.
Over the next 8 weeks, our group met on a regular basis* to identify our mission, how we’ll measure success against that mission, what “quality of life” conditions we want for Marathon County residents, and what actions or improvements we’ll need to implement to achieve our goals.
As a result of those sessions, we identified 5 key objectives the Marathon County Housing Task Force aims to accomplish:
- Enhanced coordination between agencies and individuals/families experiencing homelessness
- Increased availability of case management services for those experiencing homelessness
- Enhanced treatment for addiction issues and substance abuse relapse by people experiencing homelessness AND enhanced treatment for unmanaged mental illness in people experiencing homelessness
- Increased transitional housing options for people after their 30 days of sheltering ends AND increased short-term transitional housing options for people who are released from jail
- Identification and recruitment of mentors to assist people experiencing homelessness with securing and maintaining employment
In May of 2020, Chief Bliven and I devised a plan to start taking action toward our identified objectives. This plan included officially placing the Marathon County Housing Task Force under the direction of United Way of Marathon County. Our local United Way would then lead the Task Force through strategizing against objectives, convening workgroups, and reporting the results back out to the community.
Three designated workgroups were created to start taking action on the top 3 priority objectives listed above. These workgroups consist of non-profit employees, City Council members, City Government employees, members of the Marathon County Board of Supervisors, members of law enforcement, and citizens. We will be recruiting additional members as we set our strategies and determine how best to accomplish these important community objectives.
The next Marathon County Housing Task Force meeting is set for October 2020, when we’ll receive updates from each workgroup on the strategies that have been developed and progress that has been made. If you’re interested in learning more about the Marathon County Housing Task Force, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Our March strategy session was cancelled as the Marathon County Health Department focused their efforts on responding to the pandemic. Many of our non-profit agencies were also busy springing into action to serve those in need in our community.
Director of Community Impact – Financial Stability & Health | United Way of Marathon County
Ben Lee is the Director of Community Impact for Financial Stability and Health at United Way of Marathon County, where he has worked since September 2019. In addition to his Community Impact work, he is also the staff lead for the Marathon County Hunger Coalition, an initiative of United Way, and the staff lead for the newly created Marathon County Housing Task Force. Prior to his work with United Way, Ben worked in Human Resources and Learning & Development with local organizations. Ben is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Education, followed by plans to earn a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and Poetry. Ben is married to Tiffany Rodriguez-Lee, and together they have 3 children — all of whom love very different things and keep them busy. In his free time, you can find Ben diving into music, reading, writing & reading poetry, and chasing down the perfect cup of coffee with his life partner. Email Ben Lee.
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