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Wausau Police Department hopes to add additional staff to work with the homeless

Nick Robinson
WAOW Televison

The Wausau Police Department is looking to hire two new officers, specifically to address homelessness.

Homelessness continues to be an issue for both the people living with it, and community leaders who are trying to come up with a solution for it. Chief Barnes says it would be a step in the right direction, and spoke about what these new officers would address.

Barnes said, "The purpose of these additional two positions is to create a team who can devote all of their time and resources, into working with citizens, unhoused individuals." He said that these new officers are needed, because their current staff are stretched too thin.

But some members of City Council don't approve of the idea. Alderman Tom Kilian said in a statement, "This is not to assist the unhoused. It is to further criminalize homelessness in Wausau. The funding should go toward appropriate outreach and social services personnel rather than to bankrolling a crackdown on our poorest citizens."

Barnes said that the move would not be made to harm homeless people in Wausau, but to help them find the resources they need, and he addressed the accusations that this plan would target them.

He said, "Nothing could be farther from the truth. They're going to enforce those laws and ordinances on every member of our community. The same standard we hold everybody to will be the same standard we use here."

Barnes added that the officers would help to connect homeless individuals who want to accept help, with resources that could help them get back on their feet. He also says the funding for these positions wouldn't come from taxpayers.

Barnes stated, "In this particular case, we've come up with a plan and we have other community members and a foundation that are willing to significantly financially support this initiative."

If the plan is approved, the Chief said the officers would start their wok at the beginning of May.

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