Milwaukee Continuum of Care’s Point in Time Count Sees Record Low
Emergency hotel placements, Clare Hall, and additional permanent housing resources offer safe housing during COVID-19, resulting in record low numbers of unsheltered individuals in Milwaukee
During the Milwaukee Continuum of Care’s (CoC) Point in Time count, an annual census of all those experiencing homelessness who are in sheltered or unsheltered settings, street outreach groups counted only 17 individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness on a single night in January. The Milwaukee CoC, Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and its partner agencies have reduced the count of individuals experiencing homelessness by 42 percent over the last decade, but between 2020 and 2021 Milwaukee’s Point in Time count saw the sharpest decrease to date of individuals staying in unsheltered settings.
This low count of unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness can be attributed to expanded street outreach coverage, utilizing CARES Act funding for additional permanent housing, a robust increase in homeless prevention efforts to reduce evictions, emergency hotel placements, and the utilization of Clare Hall for temporary shelter. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as shelters were forced to limit their capacity to reduce the spread of the virus, these other resources were timely and effective. Additionally, the efforts of the local philanthropic community, and their quick pivot to address real-time needs, allowed for gaps to be filled quickly and efficiently. The United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, Greater Milwaukee Foundation and Zilber Foundation were all part of the shelter civic response team.
“We’re thankful to all our community partners for stepping up during these unprecedented times to find unique solutions and keep our community members safe,” said Rafael Acevedo, Grant Compliance Manager for the City of Milwaukee. “Protecting our most vulnerable populations from a COVID outbreak was imperative, but it was also important that we found individuals a place to stay, and a route to find safe housing. ”
Milwaukee County ranks among the lowest nationwide for its unsheltered count this year. Most cities experienced increased numbers in homelessness when COVID hit. Milwaukee CoC’s evidence-based approach and the collaborative community partnerships lead to less evictions, lower unsheltered numbers, and ultimately, overall better health outcomes for Milwaukee County residents. There were 3 COVID motels, including Clare Hall, that opened during the pandemic; four on the night of the Point in Time count. The Point in Time count indicates that 222 individuals (188 households) were safely placed in motels who would have otherwise found themselves in an unsheltered situation. Between the 2020 and 2021, the Point in Time data shows a decrease in unsheltered settings from 87 to 17 individuals, as local street outreach teams succeeded in assisting those staying on the street with obtaining hotel or other permanent housing placements. The Milwaukee CoC anticipates that continued access to emergency placements will lead to lower numbers of individuals staying on the street in the next few years.
“We know that housing is health, and these promising numbers show what can be possible when all members of our community work together on an issue that many see as unsolvable,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “With a strong focus on eviction prevention, increased street outreach, as well as innovative housing options like Clare Hall, we have a blueprint for continued success in the future which will help lead us to becoming the healthiest county in Wisconsin.”
New resources allocated to the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the State of Wisconsin and the United States Treasury have allowed for a comprehensive and long term response to emerging housing and homelessness issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the new funding availability, the CoC, Milwaukee County DHHS, and its
local partners, hopes it will get closer to achieving its mission to end homelessness in Milwaukee
“We have reached this point by addressing homelessness with a thoughtful, compassionate, and committed response. And, all the partners know that the work is far from complete,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “Lives have been positively affected by the Continuum of Care’s efforts, and that is strong motivation for continuing the work.”
Committed to a Housing First approach, the Milwaukee CoC and Milwaukee County DHHS works with local shelters, nonprofit organizations and other government entities to connect individuals experiencing homelessness with permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible and offer community-based support customized to meet the needs of each individual.
All individuals seeking shelter, energy assistance, homeless prevention or other supportive services in Milwaukee County should contact 2-1-1 for assistance and referrals to community resources through any of the following means:
● Dial: 2-1-1, or toll-free (866) 211-3380
● Text your zip code: 898-211, Mon- Fri 9 a.m.-9 p.m.