County Executive Chris Abele
Press Release

County Board Committee Recommends Proposal for Donation Containers at Airport to Fight Homelessness

County Exec. Chris Abele thanks Sup. Marcelia Nicholson and Economic and Community Development Committee for supporting ordinance change to aid in efforts to support housing-first initiatives

By - May 14th, 2018 05:04 pm

MILWAUKEE, Monday, May 14, 2018  – A proposal that would allow donations to be collected near security checkpoints at General Mitchell International Airport (GMIA) to aid in Milwaukee County’s fight against homelessness received a positive recommendation from a County Board committee on Monday. County Executive Chris Abele thanked the Economic and Community Development Committee, chaired by Sup. Marcelia Nicholson, for its unanimous support of the initiative.

“I am grateful that the committee gave its support to this creative solution that can make a real difference in fighting homelessness,” said Abele. “We’ve been able to dramatically cut the number of homeless residents in the last three years, but we still have more work to do. A small change to an ordinance plus some pocket change from airport passengers can add up to making big changes in our community.”

The proposal would modify ordinance language that prevents solicitation at General Mitchell International Airport, allowing the County to install collection boxes in support of the Housing Division’s Housing First Initiative. Passengers who are emptying change from their pockets as they head through security can opt to donate it instead.

“This is an innovative idea that I hope will help Milwaukee County meet the challenges of reducing homelessness in our community,” said Nicholson. “As an educator, I encounter homeless children on a regular basis and understand the struggles they face. I’m personally honored to play a part in helping to address this critical issue.”

Housing Division Administrator James Mathy came across the idea for the donation boxes while researching avenues to raise private funds in order to preserve the momentum of the County’s homelessness initiatives. Denver International Airport placed donation containers at security lines, with all proceeds supporting the city’s program to address homelessness, Denver’s Road Home. That initiative raised $282,722 in three years. The County hopes to replicate their success at GMIA.

“Our mission to end chronic homelessness by autumn of this year has required new ideas and solutions that ensure we are finding new community partners to continue to move the needle on homelessness in our community,” said Mathy. “By collaborating with General Mitchell International Airport and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the generosity of travelers in Milwaukee will not only make our mission to provide the dignity of housing to those in the greatest need successful, but keep these individuals safe in a home sustainably for the foreseeable future.”

While the County is on track toward its goal of ending chronic homelessness by this fall, those who don’t fit the definition of chronically homeless also require assistance. A majority of the new funding to combat homelessness has come from Milwaukee County in the past few years, but additional resources are needed.

In order for this initiative to move forward, it must receive approval from the full County Board. The next board meeting is scheduled for May 24.

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