The Milwaukee Self-Governing Tenants Union (MATU) participated in a nationwide call to action to end evictions over the weekend. Organized by the national Cancel the Rents movement, participants demanded that Congress extend an indefinite eviction moratorium, cancel all mortgage and rental debts and speed up the distribution of rent assistance funds.
âAt this point nationally and in the state of Wisconsin as well, only about 15% of the rent assistance funds have been distributed,â MATU activist Bobby Penner told the Wisconsin Examiner. âSo there are a lot of people in need. What we need to do is remove some of these bureaucratic barriers that prevent people from receiving these funds, and just speed up the process and make more people eligible. “
One of MATU’s actions over the weekend involved an attempt to deliver a letter to Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Milwaukee office. MATU failed to reach the staff by email or phone, so they stuck the letter of formal notice on the door of the building where Baldwin has his office. Penner and others at MATU also collected stories from residents struggling with the eviction. One woman said that because she owed rent from a previous eviction, she was not eligible for rent assistance. âIt cost her to lose her home and she is homeless,â Penner said. âThere is therefore a major need for the distribution of rental assistance to be more inclusive.
According to a plan released by the Milwaukee Mayor’s Office indicating where the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will go for the city, several million dollars are allocated for housing initiatives. This includes $ 1.2 million for affordable housing operations to fund two-person teams to clean, repair and turn around the backlog of vacant housing in the city. Another $ 1.2 million would help fund homebuyer and foreclosure counseling programs, with a total of over $ 4 million allocated to affordable and sustainable housing strategies. Anti-eviction activists like Penner, however, believe elected officials are not doing enough.
“We have a lot of hope for the right to a lawyer program,” said Penner, referring to a county-level pilot program that would help tenants fight evictions in court. “And we hope it turns into a broader program.” He added: âThis should be an ongoing program. And there should be funds allocated to hire more legal aid, more lawyers, to make it a viable program. Penner and other activists say the city’s ARPA priorities are “rambling.” “They want to spend the money to hire almost 200 new police officers with this one-time distribution of funds – totally unsustainable, and it goes against the wishes of the people of Milwaukee.” In July, united community groups demand that $ 200 million of Milwaukee’s ARPA funds be spent on affordable housing.
âIf housing is not a priority and people are evicted,â said Penner, âand people are on the streets and have difficulty surviving, then obviously people are going to be arrested and taken to jail. Or things like that. So we really need to make it a priority for people to have safe, clean and warm places to live with clean water, with working electricity, without bugs or infestations, that’s where it should be. be the priorities. Because if we do this for every citizen of Milwaukee, there won’t be a need for all of these cops. “
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