County Executive Chris Abele
Press Release

Milwaukee County Receives $2.4 Million Grant from SAMHSA to Support Housing First Initiative to End Chronic Homelessness

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) supports County-wide collaborative to end chronic homelessness

By - Aug 29th, 2016 01:05 pm
Hector Colon, Jim Mathy, Chris Abele, Mark Hilton, Antonio Riley and Tom Barrett. Photo by Hayley Keith.

Hector Colon, Jim Mathy, Chris Abele, Mark Hilton, Antonio Riley and Tom Barrett. Photo by Hayley Keith.

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele today announced that the County’s Department of Health and Human Services Housing Division has received a generous grant in the amount of $2.4 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The funds will support the County’s efforts to end chronic homelessness in Milwaukee and serve additional homeless families and veterans.

“Milwaukee County continues to build a national reputation as a leader in governments that are taking on systemic community problems and applying innovation to make a real and sustainable difference in the lives of our residents,” said County Executive Chris Abele. “I would like to thank SAMHSA for that acknowledgment and the opportunity to expand our efforts to end chronic homelessness faster than any other city in the country. Our approach to solving this problem is premised on the idea that our community’s most vulnerable individuals should be given the opportunity to live in a stable and permanent environment with the necessary supports that they choose. In addition to the moral imperative, this also promotes greater community cohesion while reducing significant costs that are incurred by public safety and public health agencies.”

The $2.4 million grant from SAMHSA will be awarded over the next three years to the Milwaukee County Housing Division to further the goal of ending chronic homelessness using the Housing First Philosophy. Beginning in October, funds will support case management, peer support, mental health and AODA treatment through non-profit partners including The Center for Veterans Issues. The grant will also support additional coordinated entry resources and make possible the hiring of additional outreach staff and support for a new homeless resource center. This facility will serve as an outlet for Milwaukee Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team and Milwaukee County’s network of homeless outreach teams to refer individuals and families who are living on the street so they can receive needed services.

“This grant is an important step for us to not only reach functional zero for chronic homelessness, but it allows us to also focus on homeless families and veterans who need additional support,” said Department of Health and Human Services Director Héctor Colón. “We know when we move people into permanent housing first they are more likely to confront the root causes of why they became chronically homeless. Together, with our partners, we can provide better access for these individuals to first get a roof over their heads and then take services on their own terms, allowing for choice and flexibility.”

The Housing First Initiative is a collaboration between: Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services Housing and Behavioral Health Divisions; City of Milwaukee; Milwaukee Police Department Homeless Outreach Team; homeless service providers; landlords; developers; shelters, and more. The program is based on a national model that has proven to improve the lives of people involved, reduce homelessness and strengthen communities.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support we continue to receive from national and local funders, our business community, healthcare systems, and other non-profit organizations,” said James Mathy, Milwaukee County Housing Division Administrator. “Our partners know that when they contribute to Housing First, they are providing resources that can dramatically improve quality of life for the people we serve, while decreasing the use of expensive emergency services and involvement in the criminal justice system.”

The Housing First collaborative will continue to explore ways to raise community awareness about chronic homelessness and innovative strategies to create sustainable solutions. Interested landlords, employers and organizations can find more information at

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