Graham Kilmer
MKE County

County Expanding Emergency Housing Offering on South Side

Purchase-and-rehab project underway for S. 22nd Street.

By - Apr 18th, 2024 04:16 pm

Hillview building at 1615 S. 22nd St. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Milwaukee County’s Housing Division is expanding emergency housing options on the South Side.

The division used state funding to purchase the three-story Hillview Building at 1615 S. 22nd St. and plans to add additional housing units to the building as part of a renovation.

“The goal of emergency housing is to take somebody out of their homeless situation, put them in emergency housing, but exit them out of emergency housing as fast as possible into permanent housing,” James Mathy, housing division administrator, told Urban Milwaukee.

The county was awarded $3 million in funding for the Hillview project from the state through the Neighborhood Investment Fund grant program. The same program that provided $7.5 million for new affordable home construction in the King Park neighborhood. The county used $1.1 million from the latest to purchase the building and will use the remainder on the renovation.

The building already includes 27 units of emergency housing on its second floor, with the third floor containing vacant office and classroom space that will be redeveloped into housing. Friedens Food Pantries will continue to operate from the first floor.

The Housing Division is currently looking for contractors to renovate the entire building, improving the space already in use and building out additional emergency housing on the third floor.

“So the building needs some significant investment,” Mathy said. “And we really wanted to find a way to utilize that third floor to expand housing options for the people we serve.”

Once complete, the additional units will give the county’s homeless outreach teams more options to help people out of homelessness. Not everyone who is experiencing homelessness, even street homelessness, will accept a bed in a congregate shelter setting.

“If they’re in a room with a lot of other individuals, with their trauma history, and the lack of privacy, and if there’s a situation or somebody suffering from mental illness, that’s a very tough environment for the people we serve,” Mathy said.

Guest House of Milwaukee, the nonprofit that also runs the county’s Pathways to Permanent Housing Program, operates the emergency housing on the second floor of the building. In recent years, the program has regularly been at 100% capacity, and according to data included in the 2024 budget, it has managed to place 90% or more of people who enter it into permanent housing.

Mathy said a formal decision has not been made if the renovated third floor will be used for the Pathways program or a different program, but it will be emergency housing under any scenario.

The Hillview Building is the first building the Housing Division has directly acquired for emergency housing purposes. The building represented the “perfect opportunity” to take control of the property and make improvements for the division’s clients that are already there, Mathy said.

The state’s Neighborhood Investment Fund was created in 2021 using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. It was established to give local governments and tribal communities funding for investments that can produce long-term positive impacts in communities hit hard by the pandemic. Applicants were encouraged to submit projects that would increase access to health care or add capacity to a community’s response to a future pandemic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people facing homelessness were among the most vulnerable to the disease. Increasing non-congregate shelter options adds to Milwaukee’s capacity to help them if another pandemic arrives, Mathy explained.

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Categories: MKE County, Real Estate

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