Safe & Stable Homes
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United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County

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Safe & Stable Homes

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Supports programs that will end family homelessness in our community.

We are proud to announce that Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties have met the criteria established by USICH and are the first communities in the United States to have ended family homelessness.
We also want to report that both Washington and Waukesha Counties are making great progress and are both approaching the goal of ending family homelessness in their area.

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Ending family homelessness is about changing the way our systems respond when a family is faced with losing their home.  

Our focus is on proactively working upstream to prevent family homelessness whenever possible. In instances where a family does experience homelessness, our robust support system ensures swift re-housing within a few days or weeks, coupled with long-term wraparound support to foster stability.  

We recognize that crises, such as home fires or a mother escaping a suddenly violent environment, can tragically lead to family homelessness that can’t be predicted or prevented. The goal of ending family homelessness does not  guarantee that families will never face homelessness.

Your support helps us create a community where homelessness is brief and rare, and families have the resources they need to overcome unforeseen challenges. 

“Ending homelessness” is a term widely recognized in the national homeless service sector. It means:  

  • Prevention: There are programs integrated throughout our community to help families prevent evictions and homelessness.  
  • Swift Assistance: We actively identify and connect homeless families to resources promptly, using up-to-date and comprehensive data. 
  • Capacity Balance: We work to ensure that the number of families experiencing homelessness at any given time never surpasses the community’s capacity to provide immediate safety. Our goal is to facilitate positive returns to stable housing. 
  • Long-Term Support: After families are re-housed, they can access long-term, wraparound supportive services to maintain housing stability. 
  • Sustainable Solutions: Achieving an end to family homelessness is not just a goal; it’s a commitment to sustained success. We adapt to local conditions by fostering continued cross-sector collaboration and fundraising efforts.  


Donations to Safe & Stable Homes make this all possible. 


New and increased gifts to Safe & Stable Homes are doubled by Ascension Wisconsin from 7/1/23 to 6/30/24 up to $100,000.

What Does Family Homelessness Look Like?

Family Promise of Waukesha Group GatheringWhen families experience homelessness, it can take different forms. It can look like a whole family sleeping in a car in a “Park & Ride” in Delafield. A Milwaukee family navigating life in emergency shelters doing their best to stay together. A cousin in Grafton opening up their living room or garage providing shelter with space heaters. A courageous mom and her kids in Germantown fleeing an abusive partner, seeking safety and stability.


What does the data show? According to the Institute for Community Alliances, in Wisconsin, over a third of all individuals experiencing homelessness are part of a family unit with at least one child under 18. In a typical school year, the Department of Public Instruction notes about 5,000 local students report experiencing homelessness, mainly in “doubled-up” situations, couch-surfing at friends or family members’ houses. Families often hide their homelessness out of fear and shame, with parents afraid of losing their children, and children feeling embarrassed to disclose their situation.


The need is great, but so are the opportunities. Parents in these situations demonstrate remarkable determination to find and use resources, working tirelessly to restore their families to housing stability. Joe Nettesheim, Executive Director of Family Promise of Waukesha County, aptly notes, “It is our experience that the families we work with have more courage, bravery, and resiliency than most of us. They are the foundation of our community.” 

Have you seen a family sleeping outside or in their car?

You can help them by letting us know. 

  • If in Milwaukee, call or email the Milwaukee County Street Outreach team at 414-263-0989 or Leave a message describing the location and visual description of the situation. They will send a Street Outreach worker within 24 hours to check-in with the family and connect them to supportive services.
  • Discover our easy-to-use Shelter and Housing Assistance Tool! This interactive tool helps find essential shelter, tailored to individual needs. Ideal for immediate or long-term housing solutions, it's your starting point for accessing the support you need. Explore now and find the right resources for you or your loved ones.  
  • If you are a family experiencing homelessness in any county, please call 2-1-1 to get connected to an emergency shelter. Once in shelter, a case manager will help you with the next steps of getting back into your own home.

Key Strategies

We understand what it takes to prevent homelessness, and at United Way, we’re actively implementing proven strategies from successful models in other communities. Our commitment to success is reflected in our substantial investment – approximately $14 million since 2020 – dedicated to strategies that effectively prevent and swiftly end homelessness. Annually, around 9,000 households benefit from the programs offered by Safe & Stable Homes. 

To achieve cross-county success, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County partners with experts at the Milwaukee Continuum of Care, Waukesha Housing Action Coalition, and United Way of Northern Ozaukee. Together, we apply the following pivotal strategies: 

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Collective Impact Model

Safe & Stable Homes uses the Collective Impact model outlined by the Stanford Social Innovation Review. This prioritizes a shared understanding of the issue across all stakeholders, data sharing, mutually reinforming strategies across sectors and continuous communication facilitated by United Way as the backbone of coordination. 

Legal Aid & Mediation

Eviction Defense Project (EDP)  
Legal Action of Wisconsin's Eviction Defense Project provides free, same-day legal representation for families in eviction cases in Milwaukee small claims court. In addition to same-day legal representation, the EDP can provide advice to tenants, as well as assist tenants with post-judgement matters, such as motions to clarify CCAP records. EDP has been able to seal dismissed cases almost ten times as often as unrepresented tenants. EDP works in concert with other housing service providers by accepting referrals for clients with same-day representation when they otherwise have not secured extended representation before their case. With the help of attorneys and students across Milwaukee County who volunteer their time pro bono, the EDP is able to help anywhere from six to 12 otherwise unrepresented families facing eviction per day. 

Eviction Free MKE (EFM)
EFM provides pro-bono extended legal representation for families in eviction cases in Milwaukee County small claims court. Eligible tenants must be from Milwaukee County and have incomes at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines. 

Mediate WI Tenant/Landlord Mediation 
In this program, professional mediators de-escalate tension between tenants and landlords, help them find common interests or goals, connect with available financial and supportive services, and craft an individualized solution that makes sense to both parties. This grant serves households across Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties and closely collaborates with the Rental Housing Resource Center. 

Flexible Financial Assistance & Wraparound Support

Family Flex Fund 
Provides tiered case management and flexible financial aid for families that would otherwise be using crisis services to prevent an episode of homelessness. 

Rent, Utility, and Flexible Assistance  
Various programs provide specific (delinquent property tax, utility bill, etc.) or flexible financial assistance to clients with unique eligibility for each program. For example, parents returning from incarceration or veteran-led families.  

Community Case Management (CCM) 
In partnership with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, CCM programs provide flexible financial assistance for community case managers covering security deposits, first month’s rent, monthly bus passes, moving expenses, move-in supplies, and food-related gift cards. Flexible funds allow case managers to provide their clients with the amount and type of support they need to achieve stability as determined by Individualized Plans for Independence. 

School-Based Housing Case Management 
The School-Based Housing Case Management program is run in partnership with the Siemer Institute for Family Stability. Students with frequent school mobility have a challenging time focusing on education. Housing case managers work with Milwaukee Public Schools to identify students that frequently change schools due to housing insecurity. Housing case managers then wrap those students’ families with supportive services, including rent assistance and case management. The goal is to stabilize a student in one school throughout the school year, so they can focus on their education and not where they are going to sleep that night. In 2023, this program was expanded to begin serving housing unstable students and their families in the City of Waukesha.  

Wraparound Supportive Services 
Once families move from homelessness back into their own home, optional wraparound supportive services are offered by multiple organizations, typically for 12-months, to help ensure families do not re-experience homelessness because underlying needs weren’t met.  

Tenant/Landlord Resource Referral

Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center
The Rental Housing Resource Center (RHRC) is a single physical and digital location for tenants or landlords looking for eviction prevention resources. RHRC is a collaboration of nine organizations: Apartment Association of Southeastern WI, Community Advocates, IMPACT, Hope House, Legal Action, Legal Aid Society, Mediate Wisconsin, City of Milwaukee Dept. of Neighborhood Services, and the Milwaukee County Housing Division. Safe & Stable Homes helps cover the cost of the physical location, website, outreach materials, and one full-time Triage Specialist. 

Residents in any community can call the 2-1-1 referral line to talk with a representative who can identify which community resource, out of a detailed listing of resources, fits the caller’s health & human service needs. 


Since Safe & Stable Homes funding began in 2020, we have seen:


family homelessness prevention programs established in our area.


decrease in the average number of days a family experienced homelessness from July 2021 through October 2022.

Successes by County

Milwaukee County

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Legal Support

EvictionFreeMKE provides no-cost attorneys for low-income tenants facing eviction. Every week, local canvassers knock on the doors of about 100 homes that appear on a weekly eviction filing list to share program information. Over 7,000 local households have received legal aid in their eviction case (Nov 2021-2023). Legal representation rose from about 3% of tenants to about a quarter of all eviction filed. An independent evaluation of the first 18 months of the program found an economic benefit to Milwaukee County of between $9 million and $9.3 million through deferred crisis services from prevented evictions.

Family Flex Fund

This program connects tiers of flexible financial assistance and case management to families that would otherwise be using crisis services to avoid homelessness. Since 2021, over 235 families have ended their experience of homelessness through the Family Flex Fund. Over 99% of these families have remained stable once housed. 

Rental Housing Resource Center

Funded the establishment and maintenance of the Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center. In partnership with SDC, the center has distributed $173 million to over 20,000 households, connecting tenants and landlords to eviction prevention resources. 

School-Based Housing Case Management

Our school system’s Homeless Education Program connects housing case managers to the families of students at risk of homelessness. Since 2020, over 4,000 family members have been served, preventing disruptive school moves for 95% of students and increasing the income of 43% of parents. 

Decrease in Unsheltered Homelessness

Unsheltered families in Milwaukee County have dropped from an average of 4 per night in the decade leading up to Safe & Stable Homes to 0 families since the initiative’s first investments (2020-2022 HUD Point in Time data).    

Faster Housing Connections

The average number of days a family experiences homelessness decreased by 48% and the maximum length of time that families spend in emergency shelter decreased by 72%. (ICA, Homeless Management Information System data and partner data reports, 7/2021-10/2022) 

Ozaukee County

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Robust Network

Ozaukee County has optimized family identification through a network of referral partners. Coordination between shelters ensures no family is turned away without a safe alternative. 

Decrease in Homelessness

Programs focused on preventing homelessness have led to a 65% decrease in families experiencing homelessness since 2020. (ICA, Homeless Management Information System data 2020-2023) 

Faster Housing Connections

Families now connect to housing within 48 days on average, a 75% decrease since 2020. (ICA, Homeless Management Information System data 2020-2023) 

Washington County (Germantown)

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Supportive Service Options

Seven families experienced homelessness on any given night in Washington County last year. Safe & Stable Homes has been able to support housing options in our Germantown footprint for:   

  • Families fleeing domestic violence through FRIENDS Inc.   
  • Case management through Lutheran Social Services. 
  • Rent assistance through Family Promise of Ozaukee County.  
  • Tenant/landlord mediation through Mediate WI, and housing security support for families led by our military veterans through VetsNet.   
Collaboration and Access

Collaboration with service providers and researchers aims to achieve benchmark goals. 95 Washington County residents accessed Safe & Stable Homes programs last year to maintain housing stability. 

Waukesha County

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Increased Shelter Beds

The expansion of the winter warming room building by Family Promise of Waukesha has provided more shelter beds for families transitioning to homes. 

Improved Collaboration

Regular meetings among family-serving agencies have improved USICH benchmark goal achievement in 2023 and strategic planning for 2024.  

Enhanced Programs

Improved data collection and Coordinated Entry, along with enhanced programs for marginalized populations, helps us match families to the right resources at the right times. One example is the Youth Rapid Rehousing Grant through Hebron Housing Services, which has ended homelessness for families led by young adults. Another example is the United Way funded School-based Homelessness Prevention Program. 

“In just one year’s time, between 2022-2023, the number of children experiencing homelessness in the United States increased by 22 percent. However, rising homelessness among families is not inevitable: Investments in housing that families can afford, supportive services for families, early identification of families in crisis and the rapid provision of assistance to help families find housing in increasingly challenging housing markets can minimize both the experience and length of time children spend homeless. 

“Milwaukee and Ozaukee Counties are investing in solutions that end homelessness for children and families that is having a profound impact on children and families facing homelessness. Since 2019, they have more than doubled the number of people in families assisted in permanent supportive housing after exiting homelessness and have expanded re-housing assistance to move families more quickly out of shelter and into housing.

“Housing provides the foundation that allows children and families to thrive. All children deserve the security of a place to call home. We are grateful for the efforts of everyone in Milwaukee and Ozaukee who are working toward the day when that will be our reality, providing a roadmap that will inspire communities nationwide.” - Sharon McDonald, Senior Advisor to the Chief Policy Officer, National Alliance to End Homelessness 

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Pathfinders employee

Financial Stability: Pathfinders

Pathfinders, a United Way funded organization, has a deep commitment to address the unmet housing needs that currently exist for hundreds of young people.


Chandra and Legal Aid Society

Safe & Stable Homes: Chandra

With help from the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Chandra's worries about a pending eviction and housing insecurity for her and her son were eased.


Jasmyne Bass at FRIENDS, Inc.

Safe & Stable Homes: FRIENDS, Inc.

The transitional living program at FRIENDS, Inc. in Washington County helps survivors of domestic abuse move from emergency shelter to becoming self-sufficient.


Safe & Stable Homes: Sasha

After losing her fiancé suddenly, United Way partner Family Promise of Waukesha County helped Sasha’s and her family stay in their home.


Voices of Eviction 

On August 26, 2021, Wisconsin’s moratorium on evictions ended. One year later, in Milwaukee, 13,132 families had an eviction filed against them.

MKE Tenant Voices was an inside look at the experiences of tenants who were affected by eviction. Self-paced, voice-enabled surveys allowed us to collect, expand, and contextualize data to improve the overall response to evictions and its impact on families and community wellbeing. Community surveys were conducted July-August 2022.

Listen to Milwaukee residents sharing firsthand accounts of how evictions have impacted their lives.

Key Partners, Advisors, & Grantees

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Cross-County Collaboration

United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County works in partnership with United Way of Northern Ozaukee to end family homelessness in the entire Ozaukee County region. This cross-county collaboration led to Milwaukee learning from and adopting several best practices that Ozaukee had established before Safe & Stable Homes began, including flexible financial assistance and weekly case conferencing to connect families identified as needing support to the agency and case manager in the county that best fit each unique family needs.  

Advisory Council and Partner Agencies

Safe & Stable Homes Advisory Council members have contributed their expertise to develop the goal, target population, and strategies to end family homelessness in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha, and Germantown within Washington County.   

2019-2023 Advisory Council members have included: 

  • Rafael Acevedo, City of Milwaukee
  • Tim Baack, Pathfinders
  • Angelina Bailey, Community Member 
  • Mike Bare, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute
  • Barbara Bates Nelson, United Way of Northern Ozaukee
  • Danielle Breen, Greater Milwaukee Foundation 
  • Eric Collins-Dyke, Milwaukee County Housing Division 
  • Andi Elliot, Community Advocates
  • Nancy Esteves, Institute for Community Alliances
  • Jill Felch-Garvin, Advocate Aurora
  • Patricia Fabian, Housing Action Coalition of Waukesha County
  • Colleen Foley, Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee
  • Kerry Frieberg, Froedtert Health
  • Jeanne Geraci, Benedict Center
  • Andy Heuer, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity
  • Mark Huber, Advocate Aurora  
  • Emily Kenney, IMPACT
  • Maudwella Kirkendoll, Community Advocates
  • Amy Koltz, Metro Milwaukee Mediation Services, Inc.
  • Lisa Kuklinski, Heartland Alliance Housing
  • Judy Loth, Adullum Family Warming Center
  • Kristi Luzar, Urban Economic Development Association
  • Steve Mahan, City of Milwaukee 
  • Angela Mancuso, The Women’s Center
  • Dwayne Marks; Saint A
  • Jim Mathy, Milwaukee County Housing Division 
  • Joe Peterangelo, Wisconsin Policy Forum
  • Joe Pieper, City of Waukesha
  • Raphael Ramos, Legal Action of Wisconsin  
  • Antwayne Robertson, Waukesha County Health & Human Services  
  • Katie Silva, Street Life Communities
  • Jackie Smith, Housing Action Coalition of Waukesha County
  • Jack Snow, Milwaukee Bucks Foundation
  • Greg Stadter, Milwaukee Health Care Partnership  
  • Wendy Weckler, Hope House of Milwaukee  
  • Jan Wilberg, Wilberg Community Planning
  • Joanne Lipo Zovic, Metro Milwaukee Mediation Services, Inc. 
Grantees 2020-2023
  • Advocates of Ozaukee 
  • Alma Center 
  • Cathedral Center 
  • Community Action Coalition 
  • Community Advocates 
  • Family Promise of Ozaukee County 
  • Family Promise of Waukesha County 
  • FRIENDS, Inc. 
  • Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County 
  • Heartland Housing Hope House of Milwaukee
  • Hebron Housing Services
  • Housing Action Coalition - Waukesha 
  • Impact Inc. 
  • Legal Action of Wisconsin 
  • Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee 
  • Lutheran Social Services 
  • MATC Believe in Students Fast Fund Inc.
  • Mediate Wisconsin 
  • Meta House 
  • Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity 
  • My Way Out 
  • Our Community Ltd. 
  • Outreach Community Health Centers 
  • Pathfinders 
  • Rooted & Rising (FKA United Methodist Children’s Services) 
  • The Salvation Army – Waukesha County 
  • The Salvation Army – WI & Upper MI 
  • WI Veterans Network, Vets Net 
Join the Safe & Stable Homes Advisory Council

The Safe & Stable Homes Advisory Council meets about four times per year and is tasked with developing United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County's strategies for decreasing homelessness and increasing housing security. Please complete this form if you are interested in joining the Advisory Council. 

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For many families in Waukesha, finding affordable, stable housing is a challenge.

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What Happens When We Reach The Goal Of Ending Family Homelessness?

When we are able to announce the significant milestone of meeting the criteria set by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, we will acknowledgeChandra & LAS at Desk that our work is far from complete. While we  celebrate this achievement, we recognize that sustaining positive outcomes requires ongoing support. Challenges persist, and there is more work to be done to ensure every family has a safe and stable home. Your continued support will be crucial in maintaining momentum and addressing evolving needs. By joining United Way on this ongoing journey, donors play a vital role in shaping a community where safe and stable housing is a lasting reality for every family. 

  1. Sustainability of success is outlined by one of the key criteria set by USICH for ending family homelessness as such:   
  2. Our community can project the number of families who may need shelter and services.  
  3. Sufficient resources are dedicated to prevention strategies and programs that make episodes of homelessness brief.  
  4. Cross-sector connections are leveraged to maintain household stability.   

United Way will work with the Safe & Stable Homes Advisory Council to develop a sustainability plan to keep this success of ending family homelessness in perpetuity and increase the scope of these proven best practices to serve other priority populations experiencing homelessness. We believe every LGBTQ+ youth, every person re-entering society after incarceration, every man and woman struggling with addition or mental health—everyone deserves a Safe & Stable Home. 

Want Resouces to Replicate this Work

We would be happy to share our tools we created to make this work happen with other communities.

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Special Thanks to our Safe & Stable Homes Match Sponsor