Catholic Charities withdraws application to use 5th Ave. building as resource center after push-back from Washburn neighborhood

Residents Of Washburn Neighborhood Push Back On Catholic Charities Resource Center Opening

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Catholic Charities is planning on opening a homeless daytime resource center in the Washburn neighborhood.

The building, near the corner of 5th and Cameron Avenues, is surrounded by residential homes and businesses, and some neighbors have concerns.

At Monday evening’s City Plan Commission meeting, the organization explained that this center would not be a shelter.

It is a facility that would offer access to showers and laundry in addition to resources like financial education, career coaching, employment opportunities, and other professional services.

With winter only a few months away, it would also be a possible location for overflow from local warming centers, if needed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization says it’s the last resort option if the La Crosse Warming Center and the Salvation Army are at capacity.

Homeowners and business owners of the Washburn neighborhood started a petition to stop the rezoning, which would make it difficult for Catholic Charities to open the center.

The executive director says if the new center can’t open, the organization will have to leave a lot of people out on the street.

“We will have to reduce the services to no more than 15 people because of COVID, so 25 more people will be homeless, and we will not be able to provide services at the warming center because of the space that is required,” said Roberto Partarrieu, Catholic Charities Executive Director.

During the meeting, the Washburn Neighborhood Association Executive Board said they support Catholic Charities as a whole, but do not support the center because “it doesn’t fit into our neighborhood plan.”

“We feel that adding this service to our neighborhood could negatively affect our neighbors, surrounding neighborhoods, and take away from potential families moving into the neighborhood,” one board member said.

As the meeting continued, Partarrieu noted there was a lot of confusion and misinformation about the center.

This prompted him to withdraw the application and meet with residents in the neighborhood to clarify what the property will be used for.

Even though Catholic Charities withdrew its application, the commission still made a motion to recommend denial of the ordinance to amend the zoning from Washburn to commercial district.

The motion passed unanimously.

The recommendation to deny now goes to the Judiciary & Administration Committee, which is meeting on Tuesday night.