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Event to focus on affordable housing and homelessness

By Melinda Anne Roberts

GREEN BAY – Jennifer Schmoe, director/coordinator of Circles Green Bay, wants to use a laser focus on an issue that has a plethora of facets.

Schmoe and her team are looking at affordable housing and homelessness from the viewpoint of individuals in need.
With that information, Circles Green Bay will hold an event April 29 to educate the community as a call to action on a problem prevalent in the Green Bay area.

She said several factors contribute to poverty, including when someone does not have stable housing, which can interfere with their ability to secure employment.

The ultimate goal for the Circles program is to help individuals increase their income “because that is the only pathway out of poverty,” said Schmoe.

“Circles is an empowerment model,” said Schmoe, designed “to leverage community resources and people and relationships to help them (the Circle Leaders) create a pathway out of poverty.”

A Circle Leader is someone who is currently in poverty, earning less than 175 percent of federal poverty guidelines, Schmoe said.

“The Circle Leader is in the center and it’s up to them to decide what do they need,” said Schmoe. “So it’s a contrast to how typical case management services are provided. Typically, if I’m your housing case manager and if you are eligible for our services, here’s what I’ll be able to do for you, here’s what I’ll expect of you, and hopefully we’ll get to this goal over here.”

Sixteen Circle Leaders are part of the Big View Event planning group.

The event will include speakers, opportunities for networking and information that provides guests on the facts and myths regarding the connection between homelessness and affordable housing.

Several factors contribute to the challenges and frustrations faced by Circle Leaders when looking for affordable housing.

“There are so many kinds of housing assistance that’s available – those fixed with a particular building, a voucher pass assigned to the person once they are approved, an 18-month wait list,” said Schmoe. “The Big View Event has to be generated out of what their experiences and frustrations are living in poverty.”

The issue of homelessness is shifting from a focus on more homeless shelters to a focus on affordable housing and an interdependence with an individual’s ability to earn a living wage, said Schmoe.

“It’s about affordable housing, and what are the consequences of the lack of affordable housing,” she said.

Circles Green Bay has partnered with others for the Big View Event, including the Fair Housing Center of Northeast Wisconsin and the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition.

It has also partnered with the JOSHUA Housing Task Force to “create a pathway about contributing to the voice and the frustration about the housing situation,” said Schmoe.

Circles Green Bay will invite the new mayor, area politicians and decision makers, and the public to the event “to educate them and provide them with a call to action,” said Schmoe.

Decision makers from area hospitals will also be invited.

“Hospitals are also affected by the housing crisis,” Schmoe said. “When there’s no home to discharge a patient to, that’s a big problem. Shelters refuse to take a person with an oxygen tank or a wheelchair, so they end up on the street.”

A memorandum presented to the Green Bay Plan Commission by the Community and Economic Development Department on March 25 showed Green Bay lacked affordable housing.

Specifically, it showed multiple-family (three-plus) buildings represent only 3.6 percent of buildings and 19.7 percent of units.

The report was requested by Green Bay Alderperson Mark Steuer (District 10).

“I want to use this information in the city of Green Bay to talk about affordable housing,” Steuer said.

The information has also been shared with Circles Green Bay, “so we’re kinda cross-pollinating,” he said.

The Big View Event will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. April 29 at Green Bay Community Church, 600 Cardinal Lane, Howard.

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