UMCS has 72 units of housing ranging from 2 to 3 bedrooms and 1 to 2 bathrooms. 53 of these units are designated for low-income families that are heading for self-sufficiency. 15 units are designated for those in the county’s mental health supportive program. 4 units are reserved for families moving out of homelessness.
Residents at UMCS are supported through additional services to ensure that their social, mental, physical and other needs are met. Through social work and case management residents are provided with crisis intervention & mental health monitoring, community building activities & classes, mediation & conflict resolution, and other important family services that help support the wellbeing of families. Additional services include key fob access to ensure safety, a fitness center, computer room, community room, receptionist, and community meals.
All families that we serve are low income (65% of the median income as prescribed by Milwaukee County), and often, these apartments are the first quality apartment that many of our families have experienced . This quality inspires residents to aspire to improving their conditions and instills a commitment to meet their family goals.
Our current program boasts excellent participation statistics. On an annual basis, approximately 30% of our units remain occupied by the same families as they move toward self-sufficiency. Families focus on improving work opportunities, saving for home-ownership, increasing their education, and other goals while living in a safe environment with family oriented activities. Approximately 70% of the units turn over annually, most due to families moving to more permanent environments due to family needs or goals. Through supportive case management, UMCS acts as a stepping stone for families as they fulfill their goals.
Quality childcare is an important need for most families, especially when parents need a safe place for children to learn and play while they are working. The Growing Tree Children’s Center is a state licensed, 3-star quality childcare program that serves children in the UMCS housing program as well as those in the surrounding community. Up to 40 children are served during 1st shift, and the center has recently expanded to provide care for up to 12 children during the 2nd shift—a program that is rare in Milwaukee but greatly needed by families. The Growing Tree Children’s Center also offers a program during the summer for school aged children who aren’t able to participate in other summer programming.
Children who enter the program are assessed with the Ages & Stages Questionnaire to identify the individual needs of each child in order to develop supportive programming. From referrals for speech therapy to early literacy development to handling specific behavioral needs, we work with families to provide the resources needed for children to have safe, quality care. The Growing Tree Children’s Center is also fully committed to resourcing the complete needs of a family, and referrals to the other services within UMCS are offered to families needing support beyond childcare so that all of their basic needs are able to be met.
The Family Resource Center is one of the largest emergency food pantry sites in Milwaukee County—in 2016 it distributed almost 150,000 pounds of food to over 7500 people. Besides distribution of 3-4 days of emergency food to individuals and families, the resource center also provides Senior Stock Boxes, a clothing & hygiene product bank, as well as other supportive services such as FoodShare & Health Insurance application support to help community members receive adequate benefits.
UMCS understands that coming to a food pantry for help can be difficult thing, but the resources a family receives at the Family Resource Center can help to fulfill short-term needs so that they can focus on the long-term solutions that will help them move towards stability. Those that work in the Family Resource Center strive to treat each individual with compassion, dignity, and grace, and offer individualized supportive resources for each person’s particular situation.
UMCS also works to redevelop the Washington Park neighborhood through sustainable community initiatives that work within the neighborhood to ensure that it’s a safe place for residents to live, work and play. One major initiative is the Washington Park Partners-- an initiative that is leading the community in convening resident groups and community partners to better the neighborhood together. UMCS works to help those in the Washington Park neighborhood to have a place at the table and a voice to improve their community in areas such as housing, education, safety, health & wellness, arts & culture, park & recreation, and business & jobs. Because of this partnership, a Froedtert Community Health Nurse is now available at UMCS to help residents and community members with health needs and concerns.