Wausau’s plan for Community Outreach Professional gains ground

Published: May. 10, 2022 at 9:49 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wausau Finance Committee voted Tuesday night to go to the next step in trying to create a Community Outreach Professional to help with Wausau’s homeless population.

Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven and the Policing Task Force recommend using some of the American Rescue Plan funds to pay for the new position

“My thought on it was it was the fastest way to get the position approved and funded,” Chief Bliven said.

Until this year officer Eric Lemirand was the liaison between Wausau’s homeless and the services there to help them, but he was reassigned in January.

“They were seeing a significant reduction in homeless count, and that again has ticked up,” Rasmussen said.

Without the outreach Wausau police say they’re seeing an increase in panhandling, unsanitary conditions and general disturbances downtown.

Monday, reading from a Google review, the chief explained to the Human Resources Committee that some are even afraid to go to the library.

“Right outside the front doors, two grown men were fist fighting and screaming profanities at each other. I no longer feel safe going into this library with my young children,” Bliven quoted.

Bliven says the homeless in Marathon County are attracted to Wausau.

“We see the majority of the homeless and unhoused in Wausau as a result of its close access to services in our downtown area.”

The outreach professional wouldn’t be a sworn officer, carry a gun or have arrest capabilities. It’s more of a social work position that will lessen the burden on the police while doing good in the community.

“We need our police officers to do police officer things, so that would is investigate crimes, respond to traffic crashes, handle all of those things that we generally think about when we think about law enforcement activities,” Bliven said.

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