Leslie Mason (left), case manager of Hope House of Milwaukee, poses with a family. The Safe & Stable Homes Initiative seeks to end family homelessness by 2023. (Photo by Dan Herda provided by United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County)

By PrincessSafiya Byers

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit

Milwaukee is on track to be the first city in the nation to end long-term family homelessness, according to officials from the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County’s Safe & Stable Homes Initiative.

Though the initiative, which seeks to end family homelessness by 2023, faces challenges, all the necessary systems are in place to end family homelessness, according to the criteria and benchmarks of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, or USICH.

“If we stay on track, we’ll be the first in the nation to reach this goal in this regard,” said Krystina Kohler, the financial stability portfolio manager for United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County.

Kohler said the average length of time a family experiences homelessness in Milwaukee already decreased by 60% from Aug. 31, 2021, to Aug. 31, 2022.

According to USICH guidelines, to end family homelessness, a community must meet five guidelines.

The first is that “the community uses coordinated, comprehensive outreach, in-reach, multiple data sources, and other methods to identify and enumerate families experiencing homelessness, spanning the community’s entire geographical area.”

Kohler said the Safe & Stable Homes Initiative, in collaboration with agencies across the city, including IMPACT 211 and the City of Milwaukee, has been working to make sure that families facing homelessness are provided wraparound services whenever possible.

Kohler said the city’s Eviction Free MKE program is an example.

“It’s really important because we found that 90% of cases where a tenant has a lawyer are dismissed or delayed,” she said. “So that’s effective at preventing homelessness.”

Kohler said the program has provided 2,343 tenants free legal aid in their eviction cases since its launch in September 2021.

Erika Olson, the coordinated entry initiatives lead for IMPACT 211, which connects those in need with resources, stressed the importance of collaboration.

“A big win is that we’ve been able to build up partnerships throughout the pandemic,” Olson said. “We are continuing to meet and discuss and try to make sure we’re serving people in the best way.”

In addition, Kohler pointed to the Rental Housing Resource Center, a collaborative network of local housing and related assistance programs that assist both tenants and landlords in housing challenges.

“They have a great triage team that is there to help people figure out what services they need and then connect them with those services,” Kohler said.

Despite these examples, challenges remain.

Kohler said the biggest hurdle has been finding housing for families.

“We’ll have families who are ready to go with everything they need but it’s difficult to get landlords to want to rent to them,” she said. “We are working with the city and county to incentivize those landlords and property owners willing to rent to people using assistance.”

To be able to afford a two-bedroom home in Milwaukee County, a person would need to earn $17.52 per hour, yet the average renter wages for Milwaukee County is $16.44, officials say.

The Safe & Stable Homes Initiative began in 2019 to end family homelessness.

United Way has funded legal representation and mediation services, wraparound supportive services and other programs to reach the goal.

“Because housing instability happens for a series of reasons, we can’t guarantee no family will ever be homeless again,” said Kohler. “But with these systems in place, we can assure they are a brief and one-time experience.”

For more information

Visit to learn more about the Safe & Stable Homes Initiative.