This past week, volunteers in the city of Wausau conducted an ambitious search for homeless people on a dangerously cold winter night.
More than 30 volunteers combed the streets and parks of Wausau for the federally mandated Point-in-Time count, to get a handle on how many people were living without shelter on one night in the middle of winter. Pam Anderson, vice president of community affairs for the local U.S. Bank office, was out with one of the search teams with the wind chill at eight below zero, "just to see and feel what it was like to be out on a cold, windy, snowy day, and walking around and even looking for opportunities to find warm, sheltered places to live."
The evening began at a community dinner for Wausau's homeless people. Jeff Sargent, the executive director of the North Central Community Action Program, remembers talking to one man. "And I said so, 'You're going to be alright tonight?' And he said, 'Yes, I have a spot where I'll be totally comfortable and cozy,' and he said, 'If any of the teams come upon me, I'm just going to wave and say, I'm good.'"
Sargent says one of the search teams found the man later that night. "They found a man in, like, a snow cave under one of the local bridges. He had, in essence, created a kind of a little cave for himself. And as they were approaching him, he waved his hand out, and he just said, 'I'm good! I'm good!'"
North Central Community Action is compiling the figures from the homeless search. Jeff Sargent says the Wausau numbers will will be added to the Point in Time counts from other Wisconsin communities, and then forwarded to federal authorities.