(Above) A transitional living space at a local shelter for families struggling with homelessness.
Having a place to call home is the foundation of a healthy and successful life. Yet many families in our community are one missed rent or mortgage payment away from homelessness.
Housing plays a critical role in providing stability for families and communities and affects outcomes in each of United Way’s three investment areas: health, education, and financial stability.
- Health problems can be exacerbated by lack of stable housing. High medical bills can leave a person unable to pay for housing.
- Housing instability can lead to frequent school moves, high rates of absenteeism, and low achievement for kids in school.
- Lack of permanent housing significantly decreases an individuals’ opportunities for employment and financial stability.
At first glance, ending homelessness sounded impossible; It’s too big of a societal problem. The root causes are complex. There’s not enough time, money, or people power to solve the issue. What we know now is that there are already a number of service models operating today that provide effective solutions to homelessness.
How prevalent is family homelessness in our four-county region?
In our four county community over 5,700 people experiencing homelessness accessed emergency shelter in 2017.
Why are families struggling with homelessness? One of the reasons is the affordable housing wage gap.
Affordable Housing Wage Gap
To be able to afford a two bedroom home in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, or Waukesha County, a person would need to earn $17.52 per hour, yet the average renter wages for those counties are $16.44, $11.51, $12.50, and $14.33, respectively.
OUR GOAL: END FAMILY HOMELESSNESS BY 2025.
An end to family homelessness means that every community will have a comprehensive response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible, or if it can’t be prevented, it is a rare, brief, and one-time experience.
Why Family Homelessness?
We know our donors and community care deeply about children and families. We know that with the support of others in the community, and everyone working together, we can move the needle and support programs that already exist and offer solutions. We know that when we end family homelessness by 2025, the funds that are currently being targeted for emergency services can now be targeted at prevention and toward other homeless populations.
Current United Way Strategies Centered Around Homelessness
United Way has invested in emergency shelter and supported other homelessness-related programs and initiatives for many years.
We are the lead organization for Milwaukee and Waukesha Project Homeless Connect, an annual, event that brings resources and services to those experiencing homelessness.
United Way is also active with the following:
- Eviction Prevention Stakeholder Workgroup
- Emergency Food & Shelter Boards (Milwaukee & Waukesha Counties) - Chair
- Housing Action Coalition of Waukesha County - Board, Executive Committee, Workgroups
- Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership - Leadership
- Milwaukee Continuum of Care - Board, Workgroups
- Milwaukee Reentry Council - Housing Task Force
- Siemer Institute - Student Stability Grant Partnership
To achieve this goal, United Way has convened an advisory board of experts to examine all angles of homelessness, including root causes, people affected, and proven solutions.
The focus in 2019 is on fundraising for Safe & Stable Homes: Ending Family Homelessness. We will continue our work in services like warming rooms and emergency shelters but we will expand the focus to include homelessness prevention for families.
Your donations will help us end family homelessness through funding strategies including:
- Preventative efforts where there is a funding gap.
- Conflict mediation, including landlord eviction prevention.
- Financial assistance, including utilities and rent.
- Short-term support or support coordination.
- Connection to services and benefits.
- Housing search support.