Because it’s still summer I’m offering an addition to your summer book list. “Evicted” is a gripping, deeply researched, and compelling read. Matthew Desmond follows the lives of several families and individuals in the Milwaukee area. This timely, important book is one we’re all reading at the Helpline and it’s spurring important conversations.
Most of us will never experience what it is like to live with the chronic financial stress our clients and the people vividly profiled by Desmond confront. Like other working class kids, when I was a college student I supported myself with minimum wage part-time jobs, worrying that I never had enough money and rationing groceries to pay rent. But I had a safety net. If something had happened — an accident, losing my job — I had parents who would, and could, help me in a minute. And I knew my situation was temporary; once I graduated I would find a good job with good pay.
It is powerful and sobering for me and the Helpline team to see more and more people coming in under real economic stress. They share stories about their financial reality — barely making enough to pay bills and unable to afford even necessities like prescriptions, forget having money for simple extras like buying their kids birthday presents. As we continuously confront this stark challenge facing so many of our clients we started looking at what we could do to help stabilize their financial situation to prevent future emergencies.Clearly there was a need for services that would lead to increased self-sufficiency. If someone is unstably housed and chronically financially stressed it also impacts their emotional, physical, and mental health well-being — and that of the whole family.
One year ago we started offering case management to a limited group of clients. This work has had a very positive impact, and from it we’ve learned that some clients would also benefit from shorter-term supportive services. It is our goal to expand offering supportive services — financial literacy, help completing benefits applications, counseling to work towards employment — to every individual who comes to us in need of financial assistance. This service is critically important and has become a central part of our homelessness prevention work.
Services like this add to our costs because they require more time; they are not a one-time fix. But the long-term impact of offering case management and supportive services will result in a decreased need for financial assistance. We count ourselves as incredibly lucky to have a community that understands the need and supports us in so many ways.
On Saturday October 21st you’ll have a chance to support us in a very tangible way and have a great evening. Our annual Taste of Queen Anne is a wonderful way to support the Helpline with this amazing demonstration of neighbors helping neighbors. You’ll be part of the important work the Helpline has been doing for over 35 years — work that is needed more today than ever. And the Taste is lots of fun! Over 15 of the area’s best restaurants come together to serve up their signature dishes, plus there’s a fabulous live auction with awesome prize packages (including a trip to Hawaii), live music, and complimentary wine and beer. The Taste is always a terrific, lively event that’s a perfect way to spend an evening with friends and neighbors. We have already had tremendous response from our business community ensuring that the cost of the entire event is covered, plus some. Now all we need is you. Please join us to continue this community’s impressive tradition of preventing homelessness and making this a great city for EVERYONE.