Thomas was living in an apartment with his four-year-old son. Thomas was out of work for two weeks because his son was ill, and even when he began to feel better, daycare wouldn’t take him back until he was completely symptom-free. Thomas was able to work a few of his shifts, because of a kind neighbor who stayed with his son, but the hours he worked were significantly reduced. Thomas was $450.00 short for the rent that month. With the Homeless Prevention Program funded by United Way of Northern Ozaukee, Community Impact Fund, the $450.00 shortfall was paid directly to the landlord. With this help, he was back on track almost immediately, and Thomas did not have to have an eviction notice on his record. The landlord agreed to cut his late fee in half. Thomas and his landlord ended up in a good relationship and Thomas did not fear being evicted because he couldn’t pay his rent.
Thomas’s story is very similar to what we are hearing. We all know that Ozaukee County is one of the most affluent counties in the state. But I think you will be shocked to learn that we have a segment of the population, 21.8% and growing, who are working but are losing their footing and very close to slipping off the edge. They are one emergency away from potentially becoming homeless. That emergency could take the shape of an unexpected medical crisis, such as Thomas, a downsizing at work or loss of hours, or maybe a car repair bill. These families make more than the official poverty level, but way less than an individual or family needs to sustain a reasonably healthy standard of living, provide the basic necessities, and more than half the jobs pay less than $20 an hour – most of those far less.