It really is true that "hope springs eternal."
We see that sense of optimism every day as members of our community cope with challenges that often seem like permanent roadblocks. But instead of resigning themselves to a life of despair, they hope for better days. That hope brings them to Community Advocates, where they can get the help they need to turn a crisis into an opportunity.
As you read our spring newsletter, you'll learn more about the hope that fills the lives of our clients and the advocates who work with them. All of us hope for better days ahead. Even better, we work tirelessly to create those better days.
I hope your spring is filled with promise and hope.
Chief Executive Officer
Melvette Scott Is Why
Continuum of Care
Almost half -- $10.6 million -- is targeted to Milwaukee's Continuum of Care services and programs. Community Advocates' Autumn West Permanent Housing programs and Autumn West Safe Haven program will receive more than $1.5 million. Funds also go to the Continuum of Care itself, and many of our housing partners in the community.
HUD made its announcement at a press conference at City Hall, at which Melvette Scott spoke about her experiences when she lacked permanent housing.
Scott has experienced homelessness from both sides. Years ago, this Milwaukee native held a series of jobs as a CNA in a nursing home, as a community organizer, and in a homeless shelter. But her problematic binge drinking destroyed her ability to support herself. Eventually -- and shockingly -- she lost a place to live.
"I couldn't picture myself living on the streets," she explained to us after the press conference.
But it was true.
She couch surfed with a friend, then eventually decided to go to the Cathedral Center emergency shelter.
"I was devastated," Scott said. "I couldn't believe my life had gotten to that point."
It wasn't easy, but Scott began to transform her life by working through her legal issues, securing a steady income, and coping with personal challenges.
Eight years ago, she connected with
, Community Advocates' supportive housing program for those transitioning out of homelessness. Having a safe, stable home gave her the peace and support she needed to better understand her turbulent personal history and rebuild her life on her own terms.
"Project Bridge was the first program I found that was trying to end the problem," she said.
She credits much of her success to the support she received from Project Bridge Case Manager Patti Jernberg, who was with her every step of the way.
"Patti was with me even when she wasn't assigned to me," Scott said. "She believed in me and that really empowered me."
Scott's transformation is astonishing. After she settled into her new home and regaining her independence and well-being, she completed her bachelor's degree and is working toward her master's degree. She hopes to work with children who have experienced trauma.
"Project Bridge is doing amazing things and changing lives," Scott said. "Everyone deserves a second chance."
The Community Advocates family is grateful for HUD's support of Wisconsin's homelessness programs and services and we'll continue to work hard to move individuals and families into their own homes so they can live in dignity. Melvette Scott's success is proof that Milwaukee's Continuum of Care has the power to transform lives.
Autumn West Outreach Room Opens to Provide Warmth and Support to Individuals without a Home
Remember how cold it was over the holidays? The bitter cold was challenging for all of us, but it was literally life-threatening for those who are living on the streets.
In December, Community Advocates' behavioral health and supportive housing teams watched the forecasts of brutal cold with dread. They knew that the emergency shelters would struggle to care for all of the individuals experiencing homelessness who'd be exposed to the plummeting temperatures. In addition, they knew that there weren't enough safe spaces -- warming rooms -- that would be open during the day to welcome these men and women and be sensitive to their unique needs.
"We wanted to get them to come inside and save their lives -- quite literally," said Andi Elliott, Community Advocates CEO.
So Community Advocates sprang into action over the holidays. Staff revamped an underused conference room at the Autumn West Safe Haven so that it could operate as a warming room for up to four individuals at a time.
They ensured that the room would be cozy and private, recognizing that the individuals who'd spend time there typically aren't comfortable in large, noisy settings with unpredictable activities and unfamiliar people. They purchased four recliners to allow visitors to relax and sleep. They also offered a variety of resources available 24/7, including food, hygiene kits, bus tickets, a TV, help with laundry, storage bins, blankets, and pillows.
The next step was to bring people in from the cold. The Homeless Outreach Nursing Center staff worked with the individuals they typically contact on the streets and urged them to come to Autumn West to get out of the cold for at least a little while. While safely inside, visitors were introduced to Autumn West programming and began to warm up to the idea of moving in, obtaining services and health care, and begin transitioning into a permanent residence.
The plan worked. Autumn West's warming room has served 20 individuals so far, five of whom have moved into Autumn West. The remaining 15 are all receiving services or have been referred to other programs, and all are staying connected to Community Advocates.
"This warming room is really changing their lives," Elliott said.
In fact, the warming room has been so successful that it's now the Autumn West Outreach Room and is a permanent, year-round service for those living on the streets.
"We're proud to respond to this community need," Elliott said.
Bringing Max in from the Cold
Mary Ann Patti, the Clinical Manager of the Homeless Outreach Nursing Center (HONC) shared the story of Max, who made good use of the new warming room.
HONC staff had contact with Max on and off since the spring of 2011, when he was referred by concerned staff at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. Max seemed to have behavioral health issues. He would only stay in the overflow beds at the Mission, not in the regular shelter. He was difficult to follow, too, and had been hospitalized at Milwaukee County's behavioral health hospital.
HONC staff would see him on the street here and there during their morning outreach efforts; he always appeared to be disorganized and difficult to follow. At times, he would give a different name so the outreach staff were unsure of who he was for some time.
In January, though, they had a breakthrough. The outreach staff found him sleeping in a parking structure, as they had in the past. But this encounter was different, thanks to the addition of the warming room to Autumn West's amenities.
"Because we had a warming room to offer him in real time, he was agreeable to getting in our SUV and letting us transport him there," Patti explained.
Max left Autumn West later that day and was unable to find his way back. But HONC staff were able to locate him and -- amazingly, after seven years of effort -- were able to move him into an Autumn West apartment that day and began connecting him to health care and other resources.
"Without the outreach room, it is likely that he would still be outside and disconnected from services," she said.
If you'd like to support the Autumn West Outreach Room's services with a donation of bus tickets, hygiene supplies, and other resources, please contact Jeri Kavanaugh at email@example.com or 414-270-2984. Thank you!
Public Policy Institute
On January 1, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute launched its newest effort, the
Healthy Housing Initiative
, with a five-year, $1 million grant from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health's Community Impact Grant Program.
What's so exciting about this initiative is that it will involve our policy researchers at the Public Policy Institute with Community Advocates Housing Department staff, as well as UW faculty members Marah A. Curtis and Geoffrey Swain.
This cross-sector partnership will build a community-driven advisory council, conduct a health impact assessment, recruit and train teams of advocates from several Wisconsin communities to analyze the housing challenges affecting community health, and identify the levers various policymakers have at their disposal to increase housing affordability, quality, and stability.
The project is beginning in Milwaukee and will expand to other counties in the state within the next five years.
"Housing is one of the most powerful determinants of health," said Mike Bare, Research and Program Coordinator at the Public Policy Institute and the manager of this program. "Ultimately, we hope our work will improve the health and well-being of low-income Wisconsinites and their families. We are thankful to the Wisconsin Partnership Program for recognizing this community need and providing us with resources to improve housing policy in order to make our communities healthier."
Even Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett had high praise for the Healthy Housing Initiative.
"I appreciate the team at Community Advocates and the University of Wisconsin for taking on this community-driven effort," Mayor Barrett said in a statement. "Thousands of families in our city are looking for relief, and many want to be part of solutions like this. This campaign will not only complement our own existing work, our community will be healthier and stronger for this collective effort. We are glad to be a partner in this important work."
March Meter Madness Is Here!
Even better, setting up a payment plan will prevent customers from getting disconnected after the heating moratorium ends in April.
Milwaukee County has made $1 million available for the program, which is open to qualified customers who apply during March. The county will pay $300 toward a customer's down payment, and We Energies will waive the other $300. As a result, customers can set up a payment plan without a down payment and begin paying off what they owe.
Community Advocates is a partner in the county's energy assistance program and we're doing everything we can to get the word out and help We Energies customers stay connected. The county hopes to sign up 3,500 participants this month.
Our Brown Deer Road site hosted the March Madness Kickoff on February 28, with a special appearance by V100.7's Reggie Brown. The event was covered by Fox 6 and CBS 58.
"I really like that this program is beneficial, and you can put your money to good use in other places," Kayla Spain told Fox 6. She's a third-year college student who appreciates the opportunity to pay down her bills in an easy way.
Questions about March Meter Madness? Call 414-270-4653, go to EnergyAssistanceMKE.org, or stop by one of the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program's six sites around the county to get more information or set up an appointment.
The Empowerment Coalition of Milwaukee 2018 Schedule
Calling all social service providers, advocates, and consumers: The Empowerment Coalition of Milwaukee (ECOM) is offering a full year of workshops to enhance your skills and knowledge and empower you in your profession. The 2018 workshops, sponsored by
- April 20: Job / Employment Services
- May 18: Programs for Children / Youth Services
- June 15: Domestic Violence / Elder Abuse Prevention & Intervention
- July 20: Human Trafficking / Child Exploitation
- September 21: Utility Services / Energy Assistance
- October 19: Housing Services
- November 16: Active Shooter / Safety in the Workplace
Light and Unite Red Turned Milwaukee County Red for Substance Abuse Awareness
was one of the 40-plus partners in Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division's
Light and Unite Red
activities during National Drug and Alcohol Facts week, January 22-28.
Community Advocates Public Policy Institute
were highly involved in so many events, including providing resources in the reception area of Community Advocates' downtown offices; answering the phones during the WTMJ phone bank on substance abuse; promoting #LightUniteRed on social media; doing outreach at resource fairs in South Milwaukee, at Shorewood High School, and at Southridge Mall -- and, of course, turning Community Advocates red!
Community Advocates Public Policy Institute's
Thursday, April 26
As our 10th anniversary approaches, we are looking forward to celebrating our successes with our supporters.
To provide a local perspective on housing segregation in Milwaukee, the evening's special guest will be Milwaukee historian Reggie Jackson, Head Griot of America's Black Holocaust Museum.
Here's what we've got planned:
VIP Reception, 6 p.m.: Sponsors and individuals with VIP tickets will be able to meet Rothstein and Jackson in an intimate gathering at the Milwaukee Public Museum with light refreshments from 6 to 7 p.m., before the main program begins. Individual VIP tickets, which include admission to the VIP Reception, the Main Event, and the Mix & Mingle, are $210.
Main Event, 7 p.m.: All guests will attend attend Rothstein's and Jackson's presentations on the roots and legacy of local and national policies creating residential segregation. Individual general admission tickets to the Main Event and Mix & Mingle are $55.
Mix & Mingle, 8 p.m.: All guests will enjoy private, after-hours access to Milwaukee Public Museum's recently renovated Streets of Old Milwaukee, which provides an environment in which guests can reflect on the past in order to transform the future. Our mix and mingle, with desserts and coffee, will conclude at 9 p.m. Admission to the Mix & Mingle is included with all ticket purchases.
We're very grateful for our generous sponsors:
Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Contact Public Policy Institute Deputy Director Kari Lerch at 414-270-2950 or
for more information about partnering with the Public Policy Institute on this one-of-a-kind evening.
Now, Tiffany is the smiling mom on the
Behavioral Health Division's flyers
highlighting the TANF program's free treatment and recovery services for alcohol and other drug use disorders.
Tiffany is quoted as saying, "I'm grateful to have someone believe in me when I thought everyone was against me."
Bravo to Tiffany for being so committed to a better life that she's now an advocate for the power of substance-free living.
Volume 1, Issue 1
released the first issue of its quarterly magazine
, a deeply personal look at the lives of those living without a home -- and how Housing First programs enable them to live in their own homes again with the supports they need.
is a collaboration of
Milwaukee County Housing Division
staff and Housing First-Milwaukee residents.
"Instead of trying to determine if someone is 'housing ready,' Housing First advocates argue that housing should be seen as a human right by providing housing first," explains Eric Collins-Dyke, Outreach Services Manager for the Milwaukee County Housing Division, in
Building Block's introduction. "Only then can the layers of issues that contributed to someone's homelessness be addressed so that stability can eventually be achieved."
The issue also includes news about Housing First residents, an essay by Editor Robert Itzin on how the Go Pass changed his life ("I'm becoming stronger and more resilient. I'm less afraid of life."), the perspective of Gina DiVittorrio, a Marquette University Midnight Run Housing First volunteer, an interview with Judy on her experiences without a home and with a Housing First-supported apartment, and a profile of Jeff Stingley, who serves on Housing First's Resident Advisory Council.
Households earning less than $58,000 are eligible for free tax prep, thanks to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). This year, five Milwaukee County locations will offer VITA services. Questions? Contact the Social Development Commission at
or 414-963-2694 or call IMPACT 2-1-1 for details.
Community Advocates just launched our new website! Our new digital home is easier to navigate, looks great on your mobile phone or tablet, and includes information you can use when you need help. Take a look at
and let us know what you think. Thank you!
Do You Miss Us on Facebook?
When you like Community Advocates on Facebook you're always up to date on what we and our community partners are doing. Unfortunately, many of you might be missing our posts in recent months. Facebook recently changed its algorithm so that posts from public pages, like Community Advocates' page, are less likely to appear in your news feed.
If you'd like to keep Community Advocates' posts in your feed, it's easy to do. Simply go to our page, and click on "Follow" or "Following." A dropdown menu will appear. Select "See first."
Maximize Your Donations March 27-29
From March 27 through March 29, we are offering you a special opportunity to maximize your contributions to Community Advocates, the Milwaukee Women's Center, and Community Advocates Public Policy Institute. During our 48 Hours of Giving next week, your gifts will help us reach and touch the lives of individuals and families in need of housing, energy assistance, mental health, disability, addiction, and domestic violence services.
Our $5,000 Match Sponsor, Direct Supply, and our Board of Directors are matching the first $15,000 of donations given from 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 27, through 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 29.
It's easy to give. You can give online at our website,
donation to us at Community Advocates, 728 N. James Lovell Street, Milwaukee, WI, 53233
. We are so grateful for your support.
||PPI Grants Manager Deb Heffner with Community Advocates CEO Andi Elliott and PPI Deputy Director Kari Lerch at Local Coverage
Entertains & Enlightens
-- a local online arts, entertainment, and news resource -- yet again showed its strong support for the
Milwaukee Women's Center
, a division of Community Advocates.
On Friday, January 19, it sponsored
a one-of-a-kind concert at Turner Hall Ballroom featuring local acts covering other local acts' songs and raffles of gift cards donated by local businesses.
Even better, the evening benefited the Milwaukee Women's Center, which provides emergency shelter and supportive services for homeless families and survivors of intimate partner abuse and their families. The event raised a record-breaking $8,218!
The music -- by De La Buena, Lex Allen, Space Raft, B~Free, NO/NO, Listening Party, Negative/Positive, and Jaill, all of whom donated their time and talents to the event -- was truly extraordinary.
January's Local Coverage event is just the latest example of Milwaukee Record's dedicated support of the center. Last year, its Roast of Milwaukee and its release of Re-Porter beer from Company Brewing also raised funds for the center's programs.
We asked Tyler Maas, Milwaukee Record's Co-Founder and Editor, why the site has been so supportive of the Milwaukee Women's Center.
"The decision to support Milwaukee Women's Center was an easy one to make," Maas explained. "In the three previous years of the event, we'd given proceeds to a girls' rock and roll camp. Last year, we split the donation evenly between them and an after-school program. While I feel it's important to give encouragement and opportunity to the youth of our city, seeing rising reports of abuse and learning your funding had been cut made it more apparent than ever that there are people who need our help right now. I had this platform to raise funds to immediately have a positive impact on someone who needs help."
Women-Owned Businesses Gave on International Women's Day
We are so grateful for the continued generosity of women-owned businesses that have become steady supporters of the Milwaukee Women's Center. For the second year,
celebrated International Women's Day, March 8, by donating a portion of their proceeds that day to the center. Last year, Lady Business partners raised almost $10,000 for Milwaukee Women's Center's programs and services.
These incredible businesses include:
Alive and Fine,
Orange and Blue Co.,
High Brow Waxing Boutique,
Healium Hot Yoga,
Nourish Massage, Bodywork & Skin Therapies,
The Pasta Tree Restaurant & Wine Bar,
LuLu Cafe & Bar, Acme Records, and
Amazon Smile Triples Your Donation in March
Do you shop on Amazon? Want to donate to Community Advocates? You can triple your impact now! From March 12-31, Amazon is tripling the donation rate on your first
purchase! Go to
and Amazon donates to Community Advocates Inc.
||MWC staff showed their support for survivors on Denim Day 2017
Be Aware of
Sexual Violence Risks
Madelene Amos, Emergency Shelter Manager at the
Milwaukee Women's Center
, offered three tips on preventing sexual assault. "
The first steps in staying safe are recognizing the risks and being proactive," she explained. "No tips can absolutely guarantee safety, unfortunately. Sexual violence can happen to anyone."
Trust your gut and be true to yourself. If someone is pressuring you, it's better to lie or make up an excuse to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse. Your safety comes first, before someone else's feelings or what they may think of you.
Be secure. Make sure doors and windows are locked before going to sleep or when driving or lodging.
Tell a friend. It's best to make plans and inform others of your whereabouts. Always keep your phone on you and your location on.
Community Advocates, including our Milwaukee Women's Center, will be marking international Denim Day on Wednesday, April 25, to express our support of sexual violence survivors. We believe survivors.
Need to talk? The Milwaukee Women's Center's 24/7 hotline is 414-671-6140.
Public relations consultant Sheree Dallas-Branch said "it was an easy yes" when she was asked to join the Community Advocates Board of Directors almost a decade ago.
At the time, she'd just finished a five-year stint as the administrator of the state's low-income energy programs and had seen from the outside how Community Advocates had impacted the lives of our clients.
"I had the pleasure of working with a lot of agencies in that position," Dallas-Branch said. "Community Advocates didn't have the Energy Assistance program then, but I became familiar with them at the time. I was amazed by the work they do."
Dallas-Branch, who's been serving as President of the Board of Directors since 2017, said that she was impressed by Community Advocates' mission to serve some of Milwaukee's most disadvantaged residents, as well as the way in which the organization is run.
She said she respected Community Advocates' careful stewardship of our budget, something she looked at with a critical eye. Before taking her position in state government, she'd been the Communications and Community Affairs Manager for Master Lock, where she had the good fortune of making financial contributions to worthy nonprofits.
"Some agencies and not-for-profits just stand out," she explained. "They are well run. I think that's what drew me to Community Advocates. Because of my past work I knew what a good business model looked like for a not-for-profit. I judge everything according to that."
She said Community Advocates has a huge impact on the community because of the wide variety of services we provide to clients who have very serious needs. But the breadth of our programming can be challenging to explain to someone who isn't familiar with our work.
"When I talk about Community Advocates, I think the homelessness piece really resonates with people, the domestic violence piece really resonates with people," she said. "But because there are other organizations in our community who are known for that, because that's all that they do, our story is a little bit more diverse because of the range of services we offer. As soon as I'm able to talk about one service, then I'm able to tie in another one. People think, oh my God, that's big."
She said she's also a big fan of the work done by the Public Policy Institute, especially their efforts to prevent substance abuse and their new Healthy Housing Initiative, launched in January.
Dallas-Branch is optimistic about our future, even though funding streams -- especially funding from the government -- can be vulnerable during a time of budgetary belt-tightening.
"We're getting stronger every day," she said.
48 Hours of Giving:
Your contributions will be doubled when you give from 10 a.m. on March 27 to 10 a.m. on March 29.
March 30: March Meter Madness ends.
April 12: Drug Take-Back Drives: The Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention (MCSAP) coalition, which is convened by Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, is helping to organize two convenient drug drop-off events for unwanted medication, patches, and vitamins. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., drop off your unused meds at Hayat Pharmacy, 1919 W. North Ave., Milwaukee, or Summit Place, 6737 W. Washington St., West Allis.
April 15: Beginning of extended hours for the Milwaukee County Energy Assistance Program. Through May 15, hours at all six locations will be Monday and Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 noon.
April 25: Denim Day. Wear denim to show your support for survivors of sexual assault.
April 26: Community Advocates Public Policy Institute's 10th Anniversary Celebration: Help us mark our first decade with this one-of-a-kind event at the Milwaukee Public Museum with special guests Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law, and Milwaukee historian Reggie Jackson.
May 15: End of the Energy Assistance season. See you in October!
Stop by the Southeast
Wisconsin Reentry Employment Expo, a networking event to help businesses thrive by learning how to successfully employ the previously incarcerated. Get details here.
May 28: Memorial Day. Community Advocates' offices will be closed, but our 24/7 locations (the Milwaukee Women's Center and Autumn West) will be open to serve our clients.
Sheree Dallas-Branch | Public Relations Consultant
Jodi Wire | We Energies
Sandra Samse | Johnson Keland Management
Bryan House | Foley & Lardner, LLP
Marquette Baylor | Aurora Health Care
Timothy Charek | Community Volunteer
Anne DeLeo | Community Volunteer
Valerie Gabriel | Community Volunteer
Dr. Stephen Hargarten | Medical College of Wisconsin
Erin Henry | Northwestern Mutual
Betsy Hoylman | Northwestern Mutual
Gary Ingram | Igary Events
Moriah Iverson | Medical College of Wisconsin
Sharon Jordan | Direct Supply
Pamela Klein | Fresh Coast Partners, LLC
Jim Liedtke | Community Volunteer
Esther Shin | Urban Strategies
Kate Venne | Brady Corporation