Ending Homelessness in Our Community — A Partnership of Caring

Written by Lt. Nathan Cihlar

Together, the Wausau Police Department and North Central Health Care have recognized that untreated substance abuse and mental health disorders are the primary common factors present with individuals in the Downtown Wausau area who are chronically homeless.

Officers talking with individuals experiencing homelessness in Downtown Wausau. (Still image created from the Wausau Police Department’s “Housing Task Force” video.)
Officers talking with individuals experiencing homelessness in Downtown Wausau. (Still image created from the Wausau Police Department’s “Housing Task Force” video.)

Over the past several years, officers have assisted homeless individuals on any given day to resolve a short-term crisis situation; however, long-term success requires ongoing, individualized management and treatment in order to overcome the circumstances, barriers, and health risks these individuals face.

Earlier this year, the Marathon County Housing Task Force was established, led by United Way of Marathon County. As an initial action step from the Task Force, the Wausau Police Department and North Central Health Care re-assigned staff from each of their agencies to start providing full-time care and attention to this population, with the goal of building relationships and helping them achieve stable housing.

The objective is to not apply a one-size-fits-all approach to intervention with this group, but rather to spend significant time gathering information from these individuals to understand their unique stories and needs. (You can see one such success story and learn more about this new Task Force and its residential facility to assist those facing homelessness in the Wausau Police Department’s heart-warming and insightful video released in December 2020.)

This team conducts individualized outreach to earn trust that the team will continue to be there for them in a journey to recovery and a stable home. The partnership has facilitated more immediate access to treatment options and housing, giving the team more tangible options to offer people when they tell us they are ready for a change. With generous community support, we now have more housing options to offer as well. A notable addition is a leased residence on McClellan Street in Wausau, where the team can offer some transitional housing, without sobriety conditions, while coordinating options for clients who are ready to accept the help.

Residential Facility for Marathon County Housing Task Force
Residential facility in Wausau for those experiencing homelessness. (Photo courtesy of the Wausau Police Department.)

We are grateful for this new housing option, made possible through the financial support of the B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation and a partnership with Holster Management. We are also thankful for the new beds supplied by Verlo Mattress and for furnishings provided by St. Vincent de Paul of Wausau, helping us to make it a home.

We are excited for the future of those who have had the courage to take the next step with us, and for the example they set for others. We are continually learning and evaluating the ups and downs that naturally come with recovery from long-term circumstances, so that we can adapt and make a lasting impact on the quality of life of those who are struggling.

Like any transitional living arrangement, there are some ongoing supply needs. If you are wondering how you can help, please reach out to Officer Eric Lemirand via email to ask about our current wish list of items to help serve those facing homelessness.

Nathan CihlarLt. Nathan Cihlar

Wausau Police Department

Nathan Cihlar is a Detective Lieutenant with the Wausau Police Department, having been with the agency since 2005. His assignment includes supervision of the Department’s role in the Housing Task Force, Crisis Assessment Response Team, and the School Resource Officer program. Email Lt. Nathan Cihlar.

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