January 23, 2024
Learn more about WayForward in the Middleton-Cross Plains Times Tribune
Starting this month, you can find a regular column in the Middleton-Cross Plains Times Tribune from WayForward Resources written by our communications manager, Jenny Price. Look for it mid-month as you’re catching up on other local news to learn more about our work and what is happening in our community.
Read below for this month’s column:
Food and housing insecurity continues post holiday season
By Jenny Price, WayForward Resources
We all heard a lot about hunger and food insecurity during the holiday season. At WayForward Resources (formerly Middleton Outreach Ministry), we saw our community come together to make a difference.
From preschoolers at Primrose School of Middleton to the Sikh Society of Madison to members of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, a wide range of groups organized drives and collected thousands of pounds of food that went right to our pantry shelves. We also had many businesses and individuals sign up to help provide holiday gift cards to 1,700 people in our community to make the season a little brighter.
“We’ve all had times in our life where we needed help without judgment or just a little boost to get us through,” said Laura Duffield, an employee at NET, who organized its purchase of 200 gift cards. “We care about our community and we really believe that helping others strengthens those bonds that hold us all together.”
But despite these efforts, food insecurity and housing instability in our community didn’t end when the New Year began.
Demand at our pantry has increased 100 percent over the last year. When we share this information, people often ask us why so many people need to use food pantries. Everyone who comes to the WayForward Resources food pantry has a story that is uniquely their own — but what they all share is how access to nutritious food will increase stability in their lives.
We saw a young couple forced to use their savings to maintain health insurance coverage after the husband was laid off from a marketing firm where he had a promising career path. His wife was in treatment for cancer and had significant medical bills. Visiting the pantry for food allowed them to stay in their apartment while he looked for another job.
Food from the pantry was also a lifeline for a mother of two since she arrived here from Venezuela — a country in crisis — to stay with her sister. The woman’s husband was working in Arizona and making plans to join them as soon as he can find work here. In the meantime, WayForward’s food pantry is how she makes sure that her kids have enough nutritious food to eat.
WayForward also made the difference for another woman struggling to pay rent after unexpectedly needing to care for her infant grandson. She regularly visits the food pantry to help release the financial pressure that caring for a growing baby puts on her monthly budget, so she can provide a safe and stable home for her grandchild.
Along with food insecurity, our community is also in a housing crisis. Eviction filings are on the rise in Dane County since the expiration of pandemic era assistance that helped many households stretch their budgets to cover the cost of food and housing. Across the country, homelessness has risen to its highest reported level on record, with the largest increase among families with children. Federal officials say there is an urgent need to support proven solutions that prevent homelessness.
These numbers represent very real stress and threats to stability in the lives of families in our community. For them, gathering for dinner and being able to do homework at the kitchen table is at risk.
WayForward’s housing stability programs focus on eviction prevention, providing financial assistance for rent or other expenses to ensure that people can stay in their homes and children can remain in their schools. We set a record for the amount of housing assistance we provided in November as rent has risen faster here than anywhere else in the country and the availability of housing lags far behind the demand in Dane County. We see no sign of the need for assistance slowing down.
Thanks to support from our community, we can continue to prevent families from facing the trauma of eviction and homelessness — 98% of participants in our housing stability program maintained housing and avoided eviction for a year or longer. We provide access to both housing stability assistance and case management, as well as nutritious food from our pantry at no cost to ensure that people can continue to meet their most basic needs.
As we move into 2024, I’ll continue sharing stories every month here in the Times Tribune. You’ll hear about the impact our programs have on the lives of participants and about people who connect with and support our mission to bring our community together to create food and housing security through action and advocacy.
Thanks for reading, and for being part of our vision for a community where everyone has the stability to thrive.