Milwaukee – As the nation moves forward beyond the emergency state of the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment with the impending conclusion of pandemic relief funding for rental assistance in Milwaukee. Throughout this challenging period, individuals and families in our community have received various forms of support, bolstered by the dedicated efforts of various social support agencies, human services organizations, and multiple funders including: Bader Philanthropies, City of Milwaukee, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Milwaukee County, Rocket Community Fund, United States Senator Tammy Baldwin, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, Zilber Family Foundation.
The Legal Aid Society has taken a leading role by providing invaluable free legal representation through its EvictionFreeMKE initiative. Moreover, the Milwaukee County Circuit Court has taken proactive steps to enhance efficiency by implementing virtual hearings through the pandemic for eviction and other cases, ultimately contributing significantly to ensuring stable housing for our fellow residents.
Community Advocates, through its emergency rental assistance program in partnership with the Milwaukee County Housing Division, has been a beacon of support, extending rental assistance to thousands of households. Those efforts have been instrumental in ensuring families maintained their homes through turbulent times. Likewise, the Social Development Commission (SDC) has been a cornerstone of support, providing rental assistance to thousands more households in need.
These services and mitigations were made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and other pandemic relief funds, which have played a pivotal role in safeguarding housing security during unprecedented times. However, as we approach the end of this funding, it is essential that our community be well-informed about the changing landscape.
Starting October 1st, 2023, these vital support mechanisms face a new chapter, presenting both challenges and opportunities for our resilient community.
Here’s what you need to know:
• Legal Aid Society: Remains committed to representing eligible individuals and families facing eviction for matters beyond simple non-payment of rent. Contact Eviction Free MKE at evictionfreemke.com or (414) 892-RENT (7368).
• Community Advocates: Will continue to allocate limited resources to help those in dire need, prioritizing individuals facing imminent eviction.
• Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center (RHRC): Established in 2020, this collaborative network of local housing stability and related assistance programs remains dedicated to helping tenants and landlords facing rental housing challenges, while actively exploring effective strategies to respond to emerging needs. The RHRC walk-in clinic, located in the Community Advocates building at 728 N. James Lovell Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53233, operates Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 3 pm. During these hours, tenants and landlords can consult with an intake specialist on a first-come, first-served basis. The intake team will triage needs and provide resources or referrals for rent and utilities assistance, landlord/tenant dispute resolution through neutral mediation, and relocation. Additionally, virtual resources can be found at RentHelpMKE.org or by phone at 414-895-RENT (7368).
• Milwaukee Small Claims Court: On August 14, 2023, the Milwaukee County Small Claims Court returned to an in-person hearing format. It is therefore critical to attend your hearing in-person moving forward. Requests for exceptions to in-person attendance should be made in writing to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court Clerk, 901 N. 9th Street, Room 104, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233.
• Legal Action of Wisconsin: Limited scope in-court representation and guidance is available through the Eviction Defense Project. Call (414) 278-7722 for eligibility and hours.
• Social Development Commission (SDC): SDC will no longer offer rental assistance.
• IMPACT 211: For individuals in need of shelter and emergency housing, IMPACT 211 will be a valuable resource. Dial 2-1-1 for support Monday through Friday 8am – 5pm.
In a joint effort, Legal Aid Society and Community Advocates in partnership with the Milwaukee Rental Housing Resource Center, will be publishing a series of tools and resources designed to empower and inform individuals during this transitional period which can be found on each of their websites.
Quote from Colleen Foley, Executive Director of Legal Aid Society:
“Our mission will always be to ensure equal access to justice, especially during challenging times. We encourage the community to continue to contact Legal Aid’s Eviction Free MKE project and to seek out other available resources to weather this transition.”
Quote from Maudwella Kirkendoll, Chief Operating Officer of Community Advocates, Inc:
“We remain dedicated to helping those most in need during this critical time. Our focus is on preventing homelessness and ensuring that families have a safe place to call home. We urge individuals to reach out for assistance as we navigate this transition together.”
For more information and access to resources, please contact Legal Aid Society or Community Advocates, Inc.
Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee is one of the nation’s longest operating public interest law firms, serving Milwaukee County residents for 107 years. We are dedicated to providing equal access to justice, ensuring that individuals and families have the legal support they need and are heard by the legal system.
Community Advocates, Inc. is a community-based nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of life for individuals and families in Milwaukee, offering a range of services to support housing stability and social well-being.