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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinAugust 22, 2003 Issue 

Report shows low-income housing needs

AHI established through Catholic Foundation


Affordable Housing and Homelessness in Brown County

Several issues stood out in research on housing in the Green Bay area underwritten by the Affordable Housing Institute (AHI) of the Catholic Foundation of Green Bay Diocese.

Planning & Evaluation Associates Inc. of Green Bay studied available data on housing, homelessness, and persons at risk for unstable housing in Green Bay and interviewed 35 persons who assist at-risk persons.

The research found these housing needs:

1. Greater planning and collaboration by top-level leaders of housing organizations and other community stakeholders to allow more efficient use of resources and reduce duplication of services. They recommended better coordination of services and that some agencies become more specialized.

2. More options are needed to help individuals or families that have had a housing crisis get back to a stable, permanent situation. In addition, there are few transitional living units available (36 places - including four for the mentally ill - for single persons and 58 spaces for families of which 41 are for single parenting women or homeless families ages 18-21). Few shelters have the staff to help clients develop skills or to assist or track clients who leave the shelter.

3. There is an acute need to deal with homeless persons who are chronic alcoholics, including those who also are mentally ill (often untreated). The study recommended finding a community-wide solution to provide safe living for "street homeless" alcoholics.

4. Little emergency shelter space - only 76 beds - for families where domestic violence is not an issue. The Green Bay School District reported that at least 300 of its children were homeless, not counting families doubling up.

5. Many persons with housing problems have problems with getting and keeping a job, budgeting, parenting, relationships, and housekeeping. It was recommended that ongoing support be developed to assist them with these skills.

6. Diverse families seem to be doubling up at high rates and some are being exploited by landlords that charge high rents and don't repair properties. The problem seems worst among minority groups.

7. There appears to be a current and future shortfall of decent quality, affordable housing for the lowest wage earners, especially in larger dwellings and in the suburbs. The situation applied to both rentals and home-ownership, though some affordable housing is available in neighborhoods of questionable safety, which increases the likelihood of pockets of urban decay.

8. Felons, youth under age 18, the mentally ill, and persons with moderate disabilities have special problems in obtaining shelter.

9. A process is needed to identify and then shepherd persons who might become qualified candidates for home ownership - especially housing costing less than $100,000 - through the process of buying a home from start to finish.

10. A growing number of low-income homeowners are having trouble maintaining affordable housing costs and are facing financial pressures.

By Renae Bauer
Communications Department

Lack of affordable low-income housing, insufficient shelter space and inadequate use of rental vouchers top the list of low-income housing needs in Brown County.

That's the finding of independent research underwritten by the Affordable Housing Institute (AHI) of the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Green Bay.

The research by Planning & Evaluation Associates Inc. of Green Bay found:

• between 1990 and 2000, the median value of homes in Brown County nearly doubled from $62,200 to $116,000;

• emergency and transitional shelter operators report a shortage of space;

• wait time for rental vouchers has increased from two months to nine months or more.

"What we knew anecdotally about homelessness, transitional housing and permanent low-income housing was confirmed and amplified through the interviews we conducted with 35 people who currently provide direct services in one of these areas," said Lora Warner, president of Planning & Evaluation.

She said the report found several important needs that could be addressed by more coordination in the housing system.

The report, "Affordable Housing and Homelessness in Brown County," identifies 10 key conclusions, recommendations and summary observations on how to help low-income individuals and families obtain and retain affordable housing (see sidebar).

The research shows that AHI needs to take a long-range approach of focusing on the client and the housing system, said Sue Long Olmsted, a member of the AHI Leadership Team. "AHI will work collaboratively with community leaders, clients, providers, funders and other interested parties."

Olmsted represents her parents, Darlene and Donald Long, and the Long family of Green Bay, who established AHI through their $1 million endowment gift to the Catholic Foundation.

"The Long family's establishment of AHI has allowed the data to be collected and will allow future research to be conducted to help the community organize successfully around the issues of homelessness, stable affordable housing and homeownership," said Cindi Brawner, executive director of the Catholic Foundation.

For a copy of the full report, call (920)437-7531 ext. 8173, or e-mail: [email protected]. The report is available online at www.planning-evaluation.com.


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