Community leaders are hoping a $10,000 grant will help Milwaukee get its arms around the ongoing issue of eviction. The money will go toward developing a long-term plan to keep people in their homes.
Mayor Tom Barrett announced the grant Wednesday from the “Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin” Endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
He addressed a gathering of several dozen people, who were packed into a conference room at the Franklin Square Apartments in Milwaukee’s central city. Barrett said too many people are being forced off their properties because they can’t afford rent, which has resulted in dreams being dashed.
“For many individuals, it’s a home. But for others, it’s a small business and I’m talking about the landlords, the small landlords. They have properties that they’ve invested in, ma and pa landlords in the city who want to save for retirement and being able to rent out a flat or a house is one way to do it,” Barrett said.
He said persistent poverty is the driving force behind eviction – with many people working two or three jobs, yet still having a hard time making ends meet. Barrett said he’s “appreciative” of the grant money – and it will help stabilize housing in Milwaukee.
After the mayor spoke, the community leaders gathered around him broke into a discussion group. It was the first of five planning meetings that the grant is helping facilitate.
One person involved in the brainstorming is Joe’Mar Hooper of the nonprofit CommonBond Communities. He said he was shocked when he read Matthew Desmond’s best-selling nonfiction book Evicted – telling the story of evictions across the country through the lens of Milwaukee. It put Milwaukee’s eviction rate in 2016 at 3.26 percent of all renters – amounting to more than 6,300 residents.
Hooper called the eviction problem in Milwaukee epidemic, and said many of the people forced out are African American women.
“The eviction crisis is to black women right now, is what mass incarceration has been to black men. It’s a systemic issue, we see it every day in our court system and with the impact on families to education and the family structure as well,” he said.
Hooper said the group will come up with recommendations on how to stem the number of evictions. He said some examples could include: “More work with our tenants and more education for our landlords, seeing what additional resources are out there too attach to our projects, working on the legal side within the courts and seeing how we can have additional representation for those tenants who are being evicted. I think there are a bunch of solutions that we currently have, but now that we are working lock-step together, I think we can get those solutions to the forefront."
Other partners in the endeavor include Community Advocates, Legal Action and the Milwaukee Housing Authority. The group expects to make recommendations by the end of the year.