December 21, 2022
Connections Program featured in The Capital Times
Our Connections program is featured in a new cover story by The Capital Times about the growth of doubled-up homelessness for youth and families in our community and how organizations including MOM are raising awareness and resources to address the issue. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
In the 2018-2019 school year, there were 7,450 students enrolled in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District and 109 (1.5%) of those students identified as homeless, according to CPI data.
In the 2019-2020 school year, 56 out of the 7,534 students (.7%) enrolled identified as homeless.
Similar to patterns in MMSD, 50% of the homeless students were Black, while those students made up just 4.6% of the overall population; 10.7% of homeless students were Hispanic, a group that made up 8.9% of the overall population; and 10.7% of homeless students identified as two or more races, nearly double the 5.5% of the overall student population.
Nicole Verhagen, the case manager for the Connections Program, said one of the barriers people face in their journeys to secure, stable housing is language. Spanish-speaking households can have difficulties securing housing.
Verhagen supports program participants in obtaining stable housing, and helps them navigate issues like a lack of credit and rental history.
“The nice thing about this program is that they’re going to be working with me for 12 months,” she said. “If there’s an emergency, we have the capacity to be there to support to prevent the eviction.”
Verhagen works to prioritize building relationships with private landlords, who can sometimes be hesitant to work with programs like Connections because they are fearful of having tenants who won’t be able to pay rent.
“I’m hoping they get a little bit more comfortable and have more tools to show them why it’s OK,” she said. “Because it’s (about) understanding that housing is a human right. And everyone deserves an opportunity to not be under that stress of worrying about what’s going to happen.”
Ellen Carlson, the executive director of MOM, said although the Connections Program is fairly new, she has seen its effect. She said the organization is helping people understand how to navigate systems they might not otherwise.
“We all have been in situations in life where we need a person beside us to help us figure out how to move forward,” Carlson said. “I think that’s one of the things I love about this, is that Nicole is that person. When people are like, ‘I don’t know who to go to, what am I supposed to do next?’
“To have that person is such a value.”