Austin officials say there is not a major need for a warming shelter

Created: January 24, 2020 07:15 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- While the issues surrounding homelessness in Rochester warranted the new community shelter, officials in Austin say the need is not the same in Mower County.

"Most of the work that we do in Austin is with prevention of homelessness," said Major Jeff Strickler with the Salvation Army.


While at the annual Community Connect event, there were several outreach programs there to provide services for the different issues in Austin. Heidi Hillson works closely with the homeless population in the area, and helped organize the event. She said though a shelter would be nice, there's a lot of extra work to manage one that some people don't understand.

"It's a big hurtle to figure out how to help. You can't just put maybe a mom and her kids into a big room with someone who maybe is an alcoholic or a drug addict," said Hillson.

According to Hillson and Major Strickler, leaders in the community are focusing their efforts on preventing people from ever becoming homeless. By using grants to cover bills they're able to keep people off the street.

"One of them is a United Way grant, another one is a transitional housing grant, and there are a few others. Where if they're looking for help to get in a place I can help pay with their first months rent and deposit. Most of my grants do require people to have some type of income to pay their rent going forward," said Hillson.

Hillson said for the most part people know that there isn't a warming center, so in the event they lose their home- they double up and move in with family or friends. If that is not an option, that's where the Salvation Army can also assist.

"We help people with food through our food shelf program, we provide help with emergency lodging if people need that, we also help people get into apartments," said Strickler.
According to the Major, a few years ago Salvation army looked into offering an overnight shelter but after a survey determined there was not a major need in the area they haven't put any further plans into place.

Strickler said they are keeping their eyes on the need in Austin, but unless that need changes the services will continue to reflect the community.


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