Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

New Emergency Housing For Those With Lead Poisoning

Community Advocates expanding its portfolio of temporary housing.

By - May 8th, 2023 12:37 pm
Houses on S. Howell Ave. in Bay View. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

File photo of houses on S. Howell Ave. in Bay View. Properties in article are not pictured. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Community Advocates is working to expand its emergency housing portfolio for families displaced by lead poisoning.

The nonprofit organization is buying two more houses from the City of Milwaukee for use as temporary housing for families that must leave their homes after a child tests positive for significantly elevated levels of blood-lead poisoning.

The new homes would join two others that the 501(c)(3) organization purchased from the city in 2020. In each case, the city is providing a forgivable loan from its emergency housing fund to support rehabilitating the buildings.

Community Advocates chief operating officer Maudwella Kirkendoll told the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee on Tuesday that the organization has seen success with those first properties.

“Originally, the challenges were dealing with the [Americans With Disabilities Act] compliance issues that came forth… and of course getting contractors in to do some of the work initially, but we’ve developed a workaround for that,” said Kirkendoll.

The organization pairs its own funding with relatively small loans from the city. Families are referred to temporary housing by a medical provider after a child wellness screening.

“There is definitely a huge need. Capacity is based on the funding available,” said Kirkendoll.

The new houses are on the 3300 block of N. 12th. St. and the 2700 block of N. 24th St. The city would sell the properties for $20,000 each and provide $5,000 forgivable loans from its emergency housing fund. The loans will be forgiven if Community Advocates maintains the houses as envisioned for five years.

The latest houses were previously renovated as part of the “Rehab to Rent” program after being acquired by the city through property tax foreclosure. The rent-to-own program was ultimately aborted and the city has sought to sell the remaining houses if the original tenants move out. The city acquired the 12th Street property in 2012 and the 24th Street property in 2014. The houses are located in the Borchert Field and Amani neighborhoods.

Beyond reducing costs by using previously renovated homes, there is an additional advantage to selecting those properties. “We know they are lead-free already,” said Department of City Development real estate services manager Amy Turim.

Community Advocates previously acquired homes on the 5000 block of N. 85th St. and the 5600 block of W. Thurston Ave. The organization has historically provided vouchers for hotels, but, in 2109, Kirkendoll said hotels can reject families for being too large or damaging properties. On Tuesday, he said Community Advocates works to make sure the houses are well-maintained and supported by neighbors.

The city’s emergency housing fund was created by an amendment to the 2020 budget which repurposed $300,000 in borrowing intended for new police cars towards emergency housing. The amendment was introduced by then-alderwoman Chantia Lewis and backed by Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II.

Abatement work is performed on the family’s current home while they are in temporary housing or, in select circumstances said Kirkendoll, new permanent housing must be found.

The emergency housing fund has also been tapped for an $80,000 forgivable loan to redevelop an eight-unit apartment building into a home for females escaping sex trafficking. The council approved the loan for Dana World-Patterson‘s Foundations for Freedom organization in May 2021.

Community Advocates originally secured approval for the 12th Street acquisition in 2022, but didn’t close on the purchase.

There is $192,000 remaining from the original allocation said Turim.

The committee unanimously endorsed the latest sale. The full council is scheduled to review the proposal on May 9.

One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: New Emergency Housing For Those With Lead Poisoning”

  1. keewaysservices says:

    Good to see the trending toward permanent housing and support for homeownership. The nonprofits must develop sustainable ways of funding The days of grants and taxpayer supplement are no more.

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