Residents of Washburn neighborhood push back on Catholic Charities resource center opening

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Catholic Charities is a few steps away from opening a homeless daytime resource center in a building on the edge of downtown. However, the building is surrounded by residential homes and businesses and some neighbors have concerns.

The Washburn neighborhood has a special place in Reuben Halverson’s heart.

“I inherited it, he owned it for 28 years, and in the past seven years I’ve been restoring it,” said Halverson.

The home, which was passed down from his father is a gift that keeps on giving.

“A little bit of sentimental value there, but at the same time the artifacts that I’ve been finding within the house, has actually defined the city of La Crosse, French Island, and of course La Crescent,” said Halverson.

Not only is the house historic, it’s also a rental property. And Halverson is a landlord. Which means he keeps a keen eye on what’s going on in the neighborhood.

“We are very concerned about our neighborhood. when it comes down to the kind of traffic and I can say chaos,” said Halverson.

And right down the street a former Mayo Clinic building was sold to Catholic Charities, with the intention of becoming a daytime resource center.

“The needs of the community are very large. So we needed a bigger space. We needed a building that met those requirements and this building just fit the purpose,” said Roberto Partarrieu.

He said the building location played a part in it being chosen as the resource center location.

“We felt that it was kind of a neighborhood, it was warm, and a neighborhood that was welcoming,” said Partarrieu.

But the neighborhood isn’t welcoming the idea of the resource center. And from Halverson’s business perspective.

“It’s going to depreciate our value when we have this business possibly coming about,” said Halverson. “It’s the surrounding businesses that are going to be the hardest hit.”

Catholic Charities officials said to those residents with push back to be patient.

“We’re not going to just serve the homeless there, we’re going to serve the whole community,” said Partarrieu.

He said the facility will offer many services.

“We help families, we help people in need, we help people that are struggling financially, and that’s everybody,” said Partarrieu.

Reuben said the facility will affect the community, but not in a positive way.

“It will affect that alley, my alley, and then who’s going to be responsible for that? Or accountable,” said Halverson.

But Catholic Charities said there is a difference to be made, and will continue to push for the opening of the center.

“See the goodness that is going to come out of that building,” said Partarrieu.

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 rezoning of the building goes before the City Plan Commission on August 31st.