La Crosse Salvation Army receives ‘disturbing’ reports about EconoLodge homeless shelter, leaders say in letter

Salvation Army leaders voice disappointment in letter to city about decision to move homeless population from Houska Park to EconoLodge

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – La Crosse’s Salvation Army raised several concerns Thursday about the situation at the EconoLodge. They sent a letter to La Crosse City Council members describing what they called the hotel’s disturbing conditions. The shows the Salvation Army is afraid if the city moves the homeless to another hotel — the situation could get worse.

Major Allen Hellstrom said the Salvation Army is taking reports of drug use, violence, sex trafficking, and drug trafficking — all happening inside the Econolodge. Crime is just one of the issues he has with the city’s current and future plans to house the homeless.

According to Hellstrom’s letter, after the city rented the EconoLodge, La Crosse’s homeless population rose 60 percent. Hellstrom doesn’t believe moving the homeless population from one hotel to another is the solution. The Salvation Army is also concerned about the cost of the city’s plan.

It submitted a proposal to run the city’s homeless program for roughly half of what the city paid a private housing company to run the Econolodge. Major Hellstrom is urging city council members to go to the Econo Lodge to see the conditions for themselves.

He would like them to do it before the homeless are moved to the Maple Grove Motel. Hellstrom said the problem is more complicated than simply placing these people indoors.

In his letter, Major Hellstrom said he was also not in favor of moving unsheltered people from Houska Park to the Econo Lodge. Salvation Army leaders want a meeting with city leaders to discuss this further.

Read the full letter to the La Crosse City Council here.