Homelessness rapidly declining in Milwaukee County


During Gov. Scott Walker’s administration I was the Public Information Officer at the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).

In 2018 WHEDA was one of only four applicants in the country to receive a Secretary’s Award for Healthy Homes from HUD.

From a news release I wrote:

WHEDA won in the Public Housing/Multifamily Housing category for Thurgood Marshall Apartments in Milwaukee that consists of 24 one-bedroom units of permanent supporting housing for very low-income adults who are chronically homeless and who suffer from alcoholism. The residents have failed previous support programs due to their substance abuse and other factors. Services offered on site are voluntary and focus on reducing harm caused by alcohol abuse.

Thurgood Marshall Apartments takes an innovative approach to the seemingly hopeless dilemma of chronic homelessness. The project is unique in that it does not require residents to achieve sobriety before or during housing. Instead, the Housing First model is employed at Thurgood Marshall Apartments to reach some of the most vulnerable people in the community and offer them stable housing and services so that they can begin to improve their lives.

In its application for the award WHEDA wrote:

A common misconception persists that this group represents the majority of the homelessness population. Nationally, they account for less than 15 percent of the entire homeless population. However, they are the highest utilizers of emergency services and other tax funded services including police contact, nuisance tickets, EMS responses, ambulance, psychiatric and/or hospital inpatient, municipal courts, jail, prison, detox, shelter congestion, and public defenders.

Chronically homeless Milwaukeeans are the most difficult to house people in the Milwaukee area. There are many barriers to getting them into housing: Eviction history, mental health, a bad or no credit report, criminal background, intellectual disability, chemical dependence, no income, and voucher discrimination.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness reports that doing nothing – allowing a person to remain chronically homeless – costs taxpayers $30,000 to $50,000 per year. 

Since 2008, with the creation of more than 600 units for individuals who have either been homeless or at risk of homelessness, Milwaukee County has made substantial progress in the development of permanent supportive housing. Despite these efforts homelessness remains a significant issue in Milwaukee County. Doing nothing was not an option and officials turned to an alternative response.

Here’s an update:

Milwaukee County has the lowest per capita unsheltered homeless population in the country.
The 17 unsheltered individuals counted last year, represented a reduction of more than 70% from the previous year’s total of 89 (according to HUD).

Since adopting the Housing First approach in 2015, Milwaukee has seen a 92% reduction in the unsheltered homeless population. The details were announced last Thursday.

One thought on “Homelessness rapidly declining in Milwaukee County

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (04/18/22) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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