Ron Abfalter (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Series: Homelessness Around Wisconsin

More Wisconsinites have become homeless since the Great Recession, but their numbers have proven difficult to track. In fact, different methods of counting the homeless yield wildly different numbers. But it's clear that homelessness spans both urban and rural areas in Wisconsin, and is having a huge impact on children and families, not just single adults. Researchers, advocates and policymakers across the state are exploring new approaches to address homelessness, from experimenting with the "housing-first" model to proposing controversial ordinances that restrict where people can sleep or ask for money.
Andrew Hopgood spent eight years going to sleep and waking up in a prison cell serving time for a robbery charge. When he was released in 2008, he lost the shelter prison provided him every night, and he faced the very real problem of where to stay.
The characteristics of student homelessness have changed dramatically over the past decade, including in districts around western Wisconsin.
While local governments are engaged in the fight against homelessness in Wisconsin, this effort also depends on dozens of nonprofit and faith-based agencies around the state. One of those groups is the Milwaukee-based Hope Street Ministry.
Former Wisconsin Badgers basketball star Ashley Thomas is executive director of Hope Street Ministry. The Milwaukee center houses men, women and children, many are recovering from addiction and formerly homeless.
Madison might be at the center of Wisconsin's loudest discussion about homelessness right now, but the problem extends far beyond the state's capital city. In fact, the majority of the state's homeless people documented in a 2015 federal report were outside the Madison and Milwaukee areas.
At the end of July, volunteers will fan out across Wisconsin and attempt to count homeless people in their communities' shelters and streets. The twice-a-year process is known as a "point in time" count. In Madison, the count will happen as Mayor Paul Soglin pushes for a city ordinance limiting when homeless people can sleep on public sidewalks.
The mayor of Madison is looking to prohibit people from lying down or sleeping on public sidewalks. Violations would result in fines starting at ten dollars for first offenses.