According to the state Division of Housing, 17,007 people spent the night in an emergency shelter in Wisconsin in 2010. Three largely rural counties — Forest, Marathon and Oneida — had the largest growth of homeless families, while another rural county, Columbia, had the largest growth in chronic homelessness.

Unlike their urban brethren who are often seen sleeping in parks or other public spaces when shelters are full, rural homeless people live out of plain sight, often doubling or tripling up with others in small apartments or homes. Many hide living arrangements from others as they live out of cars or motels. Others stay outdoors no matter how cold or hot it gets.