Why Homelessness?

Why 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. 

The Facts

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.

Homelessness in our four-county community

FAQs about the Safe & Stable Homes initiative

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 Definitions of homelessness.

Homelessness is defined differently depending on the institution that is using the word. School systems use the definition provided by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) that see families living anywhere that is not rented or owned by the family, as homeless. So, a student's family may be living in a motel, or at an extended family member's house and they would be considered homeless. Because this is a broader definition than most, you'll see the DPI count of student homelessness is higher than what the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) reports. The shelter system uses HUD definitions of homelessness: Categories 1, 2, 3, and 4.

"Category 1" refers to literal homelessness -- sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation, or in emergency shelter or transitional housing.
"Category 2" homelessness refers to those that are not literally homeless, but are at imminent risk of becoming homeless in the coming weeks.
"Category 3" refers to runaway and homeless youth.
"Category 4" refers to those fleeing domestic violence or are experiencing homelessness due to sex trafficking.

These categories of homelessness allow critical distinctions between the most appropriate way to end an episode of homelessness for an individual or family. It also defines what gets federally funded. Besides a few exceptions that have not been offered to our region, HUD only provides funding to address Category 1 homelessness. This means that organizations serving those at risk of homelessness, our runaway and homeless youth, and those fleeing domestic violence, rely on private donations -- like United Way's Community Fund -- to operate.  

The Safe & Stable Homes: Ending Family Homelessness initiative is unique because it fill funding gaps in our community's work of addressing Category 2 homelessness and the thousands of local students that experience homelessness by DPI standards.

 How to talk about homelessness.

Understanding that there are different definitions of homelessness highlights that every individual's situation is unique. When you talk about homelessness, you should use person-centric language. That means, instead of saying "homeless person" or "homeless parent/student," you should say, "person experiencing homelessness" or "parent/student experiencing homelessness." It may feel uncomfortable at first to say such a long phrase, but is an important issue of dignity for the person you are referring to.

This strengthens the message that a person's episode of homelessness does not define them and it is a situation that is not permanent.

 What do I do if I am experiencing homelessness?

If you are experiencing homelessness, please call 2-1-1. There are over 100 organizations in Greater Milwaukee working on issues of homelessness and all communicate with 2-1-1 on who they can serve, and what their capacity is at that moment. 2-1-1 can also connect you to additional resources such as food pantries, AODA treatment, veterans resources, and so on. 

If you are a landlord and are considering filing an eviction, please call the Rental Housing Resource Center at 414-270-4646 or email renthelp@communityadvocates.net. Legal, mediation, and rent assistance may be provided to you and your tenant through this help line. Thanks to Safe & Stable Homes donations, an online Rental Housing Resource Center will be created soon and the link will be added here. 

Support the Safe & Stable Homes Initiative


© 2021 United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County is a 501(C)(3) Nonprofit registered in the US under EIN: 39-0806190.