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Community Outreach Specialist connects with Wausau’s homeless

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 10:07 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The North Central Community Action Program (NCCAP) is doing more to help the homeless population in the Wausau area, they’re putting in more effort by going out in the community.

Thanks to a nearly $60,000 grant, NCAAP has created a new position, called a “Street Outreach Specialist.”

James Voss is the newly-hired street outreach specialist. His daily routine sees him stop at the gazebo near the Scott Street bridge connecting with the homeless, something he loves doing.

“I like helping people, I also have a heart for the homeless, it seems like a lot of society has written them off,” Voss said.

Voss started the new position in May, it’s his job to get homeless people the help they need that may be struggling with addiction and mental health issues. He said it’s the first of its kind in Wausau.

“When I moved to Wausau nine months ago, I was shocked to see the problems that this what I think is a smaller town has. They have big city problems in a small town,” Voss said.

Voss said he sometimes spends twelve hours a day on the job, whether it’s giving rides or having constructive conversations anywhere he can find the homeless, helping them one person at a time.

“He’s the only one that I see that is actually doing something to actually spark a change,” Kong Thao said.

Thao, who is homeless, has dealt with many personal struggles, finding himself dejected until he met Voss.

“I went from hopelessness to now there’s hope and now it enables me to seek something better,” Thao said.

The Street Outreach Specialist grant comes from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services. They hope this will get the homeless off the streets.

“The people that need help don’t always come to our doors, they don’t even know that we exist, so we want to go out to the street to reach those folks,” NCCAP Executive Director Diane Sennaholz said.

For Voss, it’s not about collecting a paycheck, it’s about being there for others.

“They know that they have a chance with me and I’ll help them out the best I can,” Voss said.

Vos said the position also helps free up time for Wausau Police Officers, allowing them to focus more on other responsibilities.

NCCAP is now looking for another grant to fund the position for next year.

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