Milwaukee rental help options provide a lifeline

The aid programs that offer rental assistance may be the only lifeline that many families have against homelessness. Milwaukee winters can be unforgiving without a suitable home. Finding a path to continuous housing is something that cannot be delayed when funds are short. Fortunately these Milwaukee agencies and charities can provide help for a portion of rental arrears or deposits.

Milwaukee County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is the provider of government aid through the Section 8 program. Federal funds are given to eligible families to subsidize the cost of rent. This means that a tenant still has the same rental costs, but the county provides a portion of that payment for them every month.

While the funds can be a lifesaver to a family in need, it is not easy to gain access to these recurring payments. Many families file an application only to wait many years before gaining approval. Applicants are scrutinized and must meet strict requirements before gaining consideration. However, the application process itself rarely opens up. Prior to July 2016, DHHS last welcomed new applications in 2001.

A waiting list and lottery are initial obstacles to acceptance. Some people have waited 15 years on previous wait lists. Interested parties should visit DHHS at one of three welcome centers:

  • Martin Luther King Jr Recreation Center at 1531 W Vliet Street
  • McCarty Park Pavilion at 8214 W Cleveland Avenue
  • Gordon Park Pavilion at 2828 N Humboldt Boulevard

Inquiries may be made by calling 414-278-4884 or by visiting DHHS. Anyone with drug offenses or who have previously been terminated by the Milwaukee rent assistance program are barred from the service.

A more likely form of support is available to some who request aid from Community Advocates. This organization matches sources of funding to those who have received a 5 day notice of eviction from their landlord.

Failure to pay rent due to a documented loss of income is the first requirement. Arrears would need to be linked to gaps in earnings. Secondly, a successful applicant will be someone who was able to become gainfully employed again and can reasonably be expected to afford their current tenancy. This form of stop-gap funding is intended to help someone stay in a home that they can afford to live in so long as they get a little help during a temporary reduction in income.

Community Advocates can also step in to negotiate an arrangement with a landlord if you cannot afford the security deposit. Many landlords are already signed up for the service and will readily accept this alternate payment contract. A security deposit can be built up over time without having to double up on funds the first month.

Call the main office at 414-449-4777 or visit Community Advocates at 728 N James Lovell Street.

W2 Agencies can provide occasional support no more than once per year to families that still have children at home. Up to $516 might be available to a family of 4 for example. Only cases of demonstrated need will merit a cash payment, which is made directly to the landlord. These acceptance centers can provide more information about aid:

  • Maximus job center at 4030 N 29th Street. Call 414-203-8500 for Emergency Assistance grants.
  • Maximus at 1304 S 70th Street in southwest Milwaukee.
  • PSI/Ross Innovative Employment Solutions at 6550 N 76th Street. Call 414-760-6060.
  • United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS) at 2701 S Chase Avenue offers grants. Call 414-389-6600.
  • YWCA at 1915 N Dr Martin Luther King Drive. Emergency Assistance grants are available at this location through America Works of Wisconsin. Call 414-267-3900.

Each program has various limitations and goals for reducing homelessness so it is important to contact each entity for a formal request. Funds may originate from several organizations or agencies into each service. The volunteers and administrators of these agencies can provide the short term lifeline that can help so many people during their time of need. This alternative keeps vulnerable families away from predatory lenders that bring false hope through high-interest loans. By gaining free help, self-sufficiency can be attained.