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When Carlito first heard about WayForward, he and his wife, Erin, were out of options for how they would continue to pay rent and have enough food to eat.

A temporary job Carlito was working had come to an end. Meanwhile a more permanent one he had targeted for his next step was so far not offering him full-time hours, so he worked when he could. One day, Carlito almost ran out of gas to get to work before he could afford to fill up the tank again. In the middle of this stressful run of events that followed the loss of regular income, two women he knew told him WayForward might be able to help. Carlito was skeptical. “That doesn’t exist,” he told them.

Still, the couple reached out and connected with WayForward, where a case manager worked with them to provide one-time eviction prevention funds to cover their rent and allow them to stay in their home. They also began visiting the food pantry to help fill the gaps in their budget and have appreciated choosing from a variety of proteins that they ration carefully — from chicken to chorizo to bacon. “Those are staples for our dinners for six days,” he says.

Carlito says the experience has changed his life. He’s never felt more welcomed than he does at WayForward by staff and volunteers. Rather than judgment, he feels support. “You’re sustaining us and you could care less about our race, religion, or political affiliation,” he says. “Working with WayForward was purely a lifeline. It gave me hope in humanity.”

WayForward’s Housing Stability Program is focused on eviction prevention and is full of success stories like Carlito’s. We provided financial assistance to more than 600 households last year to program participants who received one-time funds to cover rent, utility bills or unexpected auto repairs.

When you support WayForward, you join us in making it possible for more people in our community to stay in their homes and get the nutritious food they need. Your donation today can help make an immediate difference and will be used where it’s most needed.

Some of the people who look to our food pantry to help stretch their budgets get to know the staff and volunteers over time.

One of our guests — who has been visiting weekly — shared that he recently had cancer surgery.

He spoke about his battle to regain his health with our food access managers and how important the pantry was to him through it all.

“It helps to feel like you have people standing behind you, and you all did that for me,” he said.

We’re distributing the equivalent of more than 120,000 meals per month an our food pantry logged 10,647 visits last month, more than triple from two years ago.

Community support has been a critical part of how WayFoward and other food pantries in Dane County meet the need.

You can make a difference and help us continue to meet the need by planning a food drive, shopping directly from our Amazon Wish List or donating today.

Lia and Sofia* had only a few things in common when they first met.

They were both mothers of young children and had come from the same country. They were also doubled up together in the apartment of someone they did not know very well.

With support from their case manager, they decided to become roommates when they enrolled in WayForward’s Connections program. The move allowed the two families to leave their overcrowded living situation.

In June 2022, WayForward launched the Connections Program to focus on people who are living doubled up without housing of their own. Since then, 16 families have graduated from the program and no longer need financial assistance from WayForward. Now, with help from a new pilot program grant from the Dane County Department of Human Services, Connections is expanding to help more double-up households find stability.

Over the last year, Lia and Sofia worked with the Connections case manager on budgeting, tools for being reliable tenants and understanding lease agreements. The case manager works with program participants in obtaining stable housing, and helps them navigate issues like a lack of credit and rental history. Households stay in the program for 12 months, with financial assistance decreasing over the course of the year as participants become self-sufficient in their new housing.

Both women have found work and more recently, they parted ways as roommates to move into housing of their own. They remain friends and recently shared updates with their case manager.

“We will always be grateful for your support,” Lia wrote. “We are all very stable and grateful to you for all the hard work.”

“I wanted to let you know that I have already moved with my son to our new apartment and everything is going well, thank God,” Sofia wrote. “We have work, health and stability. We are very grateful for all the support you have given us since the first day we met you.”

*names and identifying details changed

Moving to Dane County promised a brighter future for David*, a single father with two young children.

He had been accepted to UW-Madison to study special education, a field with strong employment prospects after graduation. David also secured a full-time job to provide for his kids, Michael and Sara. But despite working day and night juggling school and work, David was in danger of falling behind on rent and losing the stable home he was building for his children.

Rent has risen faster here than anywhere else in the country, which threatened the dream David was working so hard to reach. A friend referred him to WayForward Resources, where a case manager connected David with rental assistance from our Housing Stability Program so he could maintain a home for his young children.

WayForward provided David with much-needed relief and peace of mind that allowed him to focus on getting his degree and taking care of his kids.

Thanks to our programs, David believes our community is where his dreams for his young family can become a reality. “I moved to Madison for a better and happier life; we felt as if we fit in.”

*name and identifying details changed

When Rafa*, 21, and his younger sister Gabriela, 19, came to WayForward, they were staying in an overcrowded apartment with a relative.

The siblings have lived in the United States for a couple of years while their parents remained in Mexico due to immigration issues. In the meantime, the environment they were living in became increasingly hostile and complicated. It did not feel like home.

A community member referred Rafa and Gabriela to WayForward’s Connections Program, which assists people in doubled-up living situations with finding and moving into homes of their own. With support from WayForwards’s Connections bilingual case manager, the two young adults learned everything about the process of finding housing, including what to look for and potential costs.

Within the first month, WayForward found an apartment that was perfect for them, both in price and location. They moved in over the summer and, after a long and complicated journey, they are motivated about the future and working hard on their next steps to be stable.

For Rafa and Gabriela, having a case manager who speaks their language and understands their culture meant the world as they navigated this major step to adulthood. They trust that their future is off to a great start and they don’t feel alone anymore. 

In the words of the community member who has kept in touch with the brother and sister over the last year: “You guys are changing lives.”

*names and identifying details changed

 

Kathleen and Roger* were overwhelmed when they came to WayForward for assistance.

Both in their 80s, the couple faced thousands of dollars in medical bills from Roger’s cancer treatment denied by their insurance plan.

Their WayForward case manager referred them to a patient advocate to assist with navigating their health insurance appeals, offering Kathleen some much-needed hope. She also connected them to the Aging and Disability Resource Center to learn more about potential eligibility for public benefits.

Kathleen was relieved to get some help and to learn from her WayForward case manager that they could use the food pantry to make ends meet and access nutritious food when Roger needs it most.

“I went last week and it was wonderful,” she told her case manager. “We got four apples and my husband ate one every day.”

WayForward’s food pantry is open to all Dane County residents who need it and the number of visits has risen 237% since January 2022.

*names and identifying details changed

Tania* was preparing to start her last year of college when she was laid off from the job she counted on to cover the rent on her apartment.

She was on the path to becoming a teacher. Her landlord suggested reaching out to WayForward for help.

Tania received financial assistance from WayForward’s Housing Stability Program that allowed her to stay in her apartment while she looked for a new job and start the academic year without the stress of facing eviction.

Thanks to your support and commitment, last year we provided financial assistance and case management to more than 600 households, key tools to helping them stay in their homes.

 

*name and identifying details changed

Join us in building a community where everyone can thrive.

Ryan and Lexy* began visiting WayForward’s food pantry after he was laid off from a marketing firm where he had a promising career path. Lexy is in treatment for cancer and has significant medical bills. The couple is using all of their savings to maintain the health insurance coverage from Ryan’s former employer while he looks for another job. The pantry is a critical piece of their stability, allowing them to stay in their apartment.

 

Food from the pantry has also been a lifeline for Ana and her two children since she arrived here from Venezuela — a country in crisis — to stay with her sister. Ana’s husband has been working in Arizona for the past year and will join them as soon as he can find a job here. In the meantime, WayForward’s food pantry is how Ana ensures that her kids have enough nutritious food to eat.

 

 

Jade was struggling to pay rent after unexpectedly needing to care for her infant grandson. High angle of cute newborn touching finger of anonymous parent while lying on soft bed in bedroom
She came to WayForward for financial assistance once the costs of caring for a growing baby hit her monthly budget. Jade regularly visits the food pantry to help bridge the gap, so she can provide a safe and stable home for her grandchild.

Everyone who comes to the pantry has a story that is uniquely their own — what they all share is the increased stability that comes from access to nutritious food. Together, we’re providing food to more people than ever before in our 40-year history.

Demand has doubled in the last year due in part to pandemic-era food and rental assistance from the federal government coming to an end. In addition, the cost of housing continues to rise at record levels – a recent national study found that Madison has the fastest-rising rent of any major city in the United States.

We are proud that we continue to meet this need as we grow and change significantly post-pandemic. We are using more donor dollars to purchase food than we did in the past and we work hard to make strategic choices about what and when to buy to maximize our purchasing power. Your partnership is critical to how we’ll sustain what we offer and ensure that everyone who walks through our door has access to a fully-stocked pantry.

When you give to WayForward, you join a community effort along with other donors, partners, volunteers and staff to provide access to nutritious, culturally specific food for children and adults in Dane County. All donations will be used for the greatest need across our food security and housing stability programs.

GIVE TODAY

*names and identifying details changed

Our Connections housing program helps families move out of doubled-up living situations. Your support helps the program provide security deposits, household items and other support to ensure stability. One participant, who was able to move with her family into an apartment of their own before the birth of her second child, shared her experience in the program with her Connections case manager, Nicole Verhagen.

What did it mean to bring your new baby home to your very own apartment after having to double up with another family for a period of time?

Having our own space has meant that our baby can grow up in a better environment where there is tranquility, peace and joy.

What are the most important ways WayForward has helped your family?

Everything they have done has been very important, because they have been with us unconditionally. They helped me a lot during all the stages of my pregnancy and until the birth
of my baby and I will forever be thankful for this opportunity. It has been a relief to have this unconditional help.

How do you feel about your family’s future now?

By connecting with WayForward one finds a horizon, an unconditional help. I feel very happy, with many expectations, eager to move forward and with the hope that in the future we will be in a position where we can help other families with that same compassion that we have received.

What are your dreams for yourselves and your kids going forward?

My dream is that my children will grow in a stable environment, so that they can focus on their studies and that they can grow as people with good values. It is my hope that they fill themselves with good knowledge and
compassion so that they can have a good future.

Michelle* was working long hours at two jobs to save up enough money to move out of a cramped apartment in poor condition, where she slept on the couch and her four children didn’t have a place to focus and do their homework. She found an apartment in better condition that was in her budget and would give her family the room they needed to breathe. While she could pay her first month’s rent up front, she could not cover the security deposit. A MOM case manager worked with Michelle to provide financial assistance from one of our housing programs so she and her family could move out of their old apartment last fall. The move provided a fresh start, while still allowing Michelle’s children to remain in their schools and stay connected to friends and teammates, critical building blocks for their stability. And she and her family continue to be an anchor for the people in their community. They are quick to lend a hand, offering babysitting or other acts of support to those who need it, and recently they were able to host a gathering of friends and family for the first time in years. MOM is an anchor for Michelle’s family and others, thanks to your generosity.

Now, more than ever, our food security and housing programs are what allow people in our community to stay in their homes and take key steps on their own paths to stability.

Thousands of people in Dane County saw their federal food assistance benefits – called FoodShare in Wisconsin – drop in March after extra payments put into place during the pandemic expired. Demand for our food pantry had already doubled, driven in part by inflation and rising rents. We are currently distributing 85,000 meals a month — the highest volume of food in our history — and demand for all of our housing programs has increased as rents and eviction filings continue to rise in Dane County. We are also concerned about emergency rental assistance from the federal government ending this year and the impact that will have on people in our community who must devote large portions of their monthly income to rent. About 45% of Dane County residents spend at least 30% of their income on rent, according to the 2021 American Community Survey.

When you support MOM, you not only make stories like Michelle’s possible, you provide the building blocks for stability in our community. Your donation today can help make an immediate difference. Thank you for your support!

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