United Way and community partners have set a goal to end family homelessness in our community.
March 22, 2022
Written by Krystina Kohler, United Way
I want to share some exciting things going on in United Way's Safe & Stable Homes (SASH) initiative so you can see your advocacy and fundraising effects in action!
The physical office for the Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center (RHRC) is now open to the public. Your donations to SASH funded some of the start-up costs associated with the website Renthelpmke.org Last year and are now funding the triage team of staff that take the calls, answer the emails, and assess the clients when they come into the center. These staff connect everyone to the right resource of rent assistance, property owner/tenant mediation, legal aid, housing search help, and getting people logged on to their virtual case using the RHRC "Zoom rooms."
Twenty-two thousand tenants and property owners reached out to the RHRC for support during the first half of this grant cycle. Since its launch, the RHRC has facilitated the distribution of over $65 million in temporary rent assistance funds to over 6,000 unique households in partnership with the Social Development Commission.
Karina is one of those triage team members. She hates having her picture taken so she is hiding behind the computers in the picture above. When I met Karina, she had answered dozens and dozens of calls for assistance and had helped clients get logged onto their virtual court hearing using the computer kiosks you will see in some of the following pictures.
Tenants can spend hours sitting at these kiosks waiting for their case to be called (there are private Zoom rooms, too). Karina said that the tenants are often filled with fear that they have logged into the wrong link (which sometimes happens) and general anxiety about their potential loss of a home. Karina can double-check with the courts that everything is moving along ok and sometimes sets the client up with a corrected link -- avoiding what would have been a default judgement (i.e. an automatic eviction to that household because they did not show up for their case). Lawyers from our Safe & Stable Homes Eviction Free MKE project will also log onto the calls, as will same-day pro bono lawyers in the Safe & Stable Homes funded Eviction Defense Project (the difference between the programs is if the lawyers connect to the client pre-case for extended legal aid, or for same-day, last minute legal representation).
So far, from September, 2021 to February, 2022, 81% of the cases our lawyers represented had their eviction dismissed or delayed. As of last Friday, we have served 1,317 households with extended legal representation through Eviction Free MKE.
When an eviction cannot be prevented, RHRC staff has a direct line to our Coordinated Entry team to connect the client to homelessness service resources. I have sat on the Executive Committee for the Coordinated Entry Team for years now, as part of my role at United Way, and meet multiple times a month with Coordinated Entry staff to make sure connections to services are streamlined and appropriate. Cool, right?
There is so much more going on in United Way’s Safe & Stable Homes initiative, but that’s all for today. Just know that your support of this work is helping families in our community stay safely housed.
Learn more about Safe & Stable Homes and how you can help end family homelessness in our community.