Heroes of the Week: Hope House of Milwaukee Staff
Best known as a homeless shelter, Hope House of Milwaukee offers a wide variety of services to support people in need of help. Emergency shelter, rent assistance for rapid rehousing, education programs for adults and the youth, a medical clinic and a food pantry; Hope House services cover the basic needs of the people who walk through their door.
"People come to us with all kinds of challenges," executive director Wendy Weckler explains. "Homeless people face multiple barriers including a lack of education, a history of abuse, lack of income and disabilities just to name a few. We find it's more useful to focus on their strengths and work from there."
In 2016, the organization housed 446 people in an emergency situation and helped another 169 get permanent housing. Nearly 10,000 were served by Hope House's food pantry. What makes Hope House unique, however, is the importance they give to educating people in dire situations to avoid chronic homelessness and alleviate the stigma associated with it. In 2016, 116 youth received nearly 4,000 hours of educational workshops and private tutoring.
"Every time a family gets a key to their apartment, it's a victory for us and them," Weckler says. "Every time someone staying with us finds a job and takes that first step to never needing us again, it's a victory. A lot of the little victories we each have every day are big for our guests."
Along with the Milwaukee CoC (Continuum of Care, a consortium of homeless service providers, advocates and government dedicated to ending homelessness in Milwaukee), Hope House works to end homelessness by ensuring that everyone who is homeless or becomes homeless has a safe, stable, permanent place to go as quickly as possible. "The amazing thing is that the Milwaukee Continuum of Care is making progress," Weckler adds. "The number of chronically homeless has gone down for the first time in years and there have been a lot of gains made in other areas as well."
For the Hope House staff, however, the fight will not end as long as a single person remains on the streets of Milwaukee. "Policies, management and a building can't help people," Weckler says. "It's the dedication of our staff and the fact that they care about people, and their willingness to go above and beyond that make all the difference."
For more information and to support Hope House, visit www.hopehousemke.org.