Home is a place for moments and milestones. A place to be surrounded by those you love. Home is a place you should be able to count on for safety, security, and a sense of belonging. But for some, one more missed rent or mortgage payment may take all that away from them.
On Monday, October 17 United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County hosted a press conference with local leaders to announce that October 17 – 22 is Homelessness Awareness Week in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.
“We treat homelessness like it’s inevitable, like it’s something you have to live with, and it just is not,” said Amy Lindner, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County.
Speakers at the press conference included Amy Lindner, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, Rafael Acevedo, Grant Compliance Manager at the City of Milwaukee, Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilley, and Jim Mathy, Housing Administrator at Milwaukee County.
Along with our community partners, we’ve set a goal to end family homelessness in our area by the end of 2023. One of these ways is through our Safe & Stable Homes initiative. This initiative helps families navigate through the challenges of eviction, or if they are already without a home, that it is a brief, one-time experience. At the center of the Safe & Stable Homes initiative are three key programs: the Family Flex Fund, the Right to Counsel and EvictionFreeMKE, and the Milwaukee Housing Resource Center.
This work wouldn’t be possible without our partnership with donors, volunteers, organizations, and community leaders.
“Today and this week is really about raising the awareness of homelessness, not just in our community, but also about elevating the resources and services that are dedicated to addressing homelessness,” County Executive Crowley stated. “By the time I was a sophomore in high school, we had been evicted at least three times. Think about that: that had a deep impact on my brothers and I growing up.”
Mayor Shawn Reilley echoed the strain homelessness takes on families. “I think one of the things we have to recognize is that children who are homeless – it really impacts their whole lives.”
In Waukesha, emergency shelters often operate at full capacity with long waitlists in the winters. But families in crisis don’t have time to wait. With help from United Way and other partners, the Waukesha overflow shelter was recently updated and saw a transformation that allowed for expansion. “In the last three years, we wouldn’t be where we are right now without United Way’s help,” Mayor Reilley said.
Mayor Johnson also took time to reflect on the numbers. “Any given day in Milwaukee, we have more than 800 homeless men, women, and children – families,” he stressed, “in the greater Milwaukee area, but we have one of the lowest homeless counts in a city of our size. Our homeless numbers have decreased over the past 7 years by 42%. That’s an event we should all be proud of.”
Rafael Acevedo knows the work that goes into ending homelessness. He thanked United Way and called out additional organizations working tirelessly to end homelessness in our community including Milwaukee Continuum of Care, Outreach Community Health Centers, and Pathfinders.
Safe & Stable Homes has produced impressive statistics:
- Served over 13,000 clients
- Of these 13,000, roughly 3,300 individuals were housed
- Of these 3,300, over 700 came from the streets
2022 was similar:
- Served over 12,000 clients
- Of these, roughly 3,200 individuals were housed
- With 600 individuals going from street homelessness into housing
“Typically, the public doesn’t see what’s going on behind the scenes,” Acevedo said, “Just keep that in mind the next time you see someone experiencing homelessness. There is someone out there working for them.”
Jim Mathy also reflected on United Way’s efforts to end family homelessness, “A lot of those in the community certainly know United Way’s worth, but they don’t get to see the day-to-day dedication that their staff have. It’s not just general fundraisers. Every single day that we encounter situations that – without direct assistance from that quick cell phone call – United Way is there behind the scenes helping.”
United Way would like to also thank iCare, Froedtert Health, and Landmark Credit Union for supporting Project Homeless Connect and purchasing the supplies needed to distribute 1,000 kits of basic need items to families experiencing housing instability during Homelessness Awareness Week. The 500 Laundry & Linen kits packed by Landmark Credit Union, UW Credit Union, and MGIC will be delivered to newly housed families, and 550 personal care kits packed by Froedtert Health will be delivered to agencies working with individuals experiencing homelessness across Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.
Pictured from top-to-bottom: Amy Lindner, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County; press conference at United Way.
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