Wisconsin newspapers partner in effort to shine a light on homelessness

MADISON – Lawmakers, business leaders, service providers and media representatives from around the state gathered Tuesday at a symposium on homelessness sponsored by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. 

It was the second symposium to highlight the state of homelessness in Wisconsin. The first led to a special, collaborative news report from WNA members “Homelessness in Wisconsin — State at a Crossroads” and follow-up editorials published in roughly 30 newspapers across the state earlier this month.

The discussion Tuesday centered around the pace of progress on a package of bills that would deliver $7.5 million in additional spending to address homelessness over two years.

The package of eight bills, recommended by the Wisconsin Interagency Council on Homelessness, was passed by the GOP-controlled Assembly and echoed in Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ first budget, but stalled in the Legislature’s GOP-controlled budget committee.

“We have the same goals,” said Pat Wood, CEO and publisher of Multi Media Channels in Waupaca. “We need to dialogue with each other and talk to each other.”

If approved, the legislation would be the state’s largest dollar increase ever to directly address homelessness.

“We should get our (act) together and do something in the next 90 days,” Wisconsin State Journal publisher Tom Wiley said. “Ten years from now is not going to help.”

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Statewide reporting effort increases awareness about homelessness in Wisconsin

posted 10/21/19

More than 30 news outlets across the state have joined an effort to increase awareness about the state of homelessness in Wisconsin.

homeless person in front of Wisconsin State Capitol


Joe Ehr, a member of Madison’s homeless community, holds up a sign as he crosses the street outside the Wisconsin State Capitol on Sept. 19, 2019, in downtown Madison. (photo by Amber Arnold, Wisconsin State Journal)

The project, produced in large part by reporters from the Wisconsin State Journal, La Crosse Tribune, The (Green Bay) Press Times and The (Racine) Journal Times, was born from a June symposium on the topic that brought together legislators, service providers, advocates and journalists to discuss the challenge of eradicating homelessness in Wisconsin.

“At the risk of putting words in the Wisconsin State Journal’s mouth, Sunday’s terrific stories on homelessness in Wisconsin placed it and a lot of others working on this hugely complicated issue squarely in the solutions business,” WISC-TV Editorial Director Neil Heinen said during a recent broadcast. “First of all, it’s a reminder of how important the media is in helping us understand our shared concerns and identifying options for solving our problems.”

In addition to coverage from Wisconsin newspapers, the effort was picked up by the Associated Press and appeared in newspapers across the country, including the Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, the Charlotte Observer, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Idaho Statesman, and The Wichita Eagle, among others.

See some of the coverage