WisCAP Community Action News

Bill Brown, WISCAP Rural Development Director 1992-2016, Passes Away


There are hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals in Wisconsin (13% of the state’s population); individuals attempting to get a leg up on the ladder to self-sufficiency. There are also hundreds of low-income communities in our state – most very small and very rural – also reaching for self-sufficiency in their ability to provide even basic services to their residents. Basic services, for example, such as safe and efficient water and wastewater systems.

For twenty-four years, Bill Brown served as WISCAP’s resource to these communities. He came to WISCAP in June of 1992 to set-up, organize and implement federally-funded water and wastewater systems for these very rural and very small Wisconsin communities. Over the years, these services grew and expanded. As WISCAP’s Rural Development Director, Bill grew a staff; a very efficient staff and one well-accepted in the communities in which they worked. Bill developed strong working relationships with Wisconsin’s eleven Native American tribes, opening doors of trust and cooperation for many essential services that continue to this day. He kept pushing us all to look at expanding the Rural Development Department’s scope to include provision of other essential community services, helping small towns, villages and unincorporated units to have fair access at Community Development Block Grants and other public programming to improve living conditions in their communities.
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Community Action, Inc.’s First Choice Health Center

Rock County ranks fourth in Wisconsin in the level of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). First Choice Health Center, a program of Community Action, Inc., is hosting a free testing clinic in Janesville on August 31 to help reduce those numbers.

The racial disparity among those suffering from STIs is even more striking. The Rock County Health Department reports that while African-Americans make up roughly 5% of the county’s population, African-Americans account for 25% of the chlamydia cases, 57% of the gonorrhea cases and 66% of the co-infection cases (two STIs at the same time).

“African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by sexually transmitted infections in the United States,” says Marc Perry, director of community programs at Community Action, Inc. “That’s all the more reason why it is critical that everyone gets tested and knows their status. When you get tested, you take control of your reproductive health.” Continue Reading

Grace Jones Receives Housing Excellence Award

Grace Jones, Executive Director of Couleecap, the Community Action Agency serving La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon and Crawford Counties in western Wisconsin, was awarded the prestigiGraceous Charles M. Hill, Sr. Award for Housing Excellence at the 2016 A Home for Everyone statewideaffordable housing conference.

The Charles M. Hill, Sr. Award for Housing Excellence is given to an individual who has displayed a long-term commitment to the provision of affordable housing and had a lasting influence on the advancement of affordable housing in Wisconsin. Ms. Jones was honored for her tireless efforts to fight poverty and promote self-sufficiency; for leading innovative efforts to provide housing for those most in need; for her passionate commitment to develop programs to serve the homeless in her community; and for her collaborative spirit in addressing community challenges.

“It is such an honor to be selected for an award named after one of my housing heroes, Chuck Hill” said Ms. Jones. “This work is so important and makes such a fundamental and lasting impact on the families we help.”

The Wisconsin Collaborative for Affordable Housing consists of community-based organizations, private concerns, government agencies and advocates committed to promoting the development and preservation of affordable housing throughout Wisconsin. The Collaborative organizes the annual A Home for Everyone conference to provide a public forum for the purpose of focusing on these issues for low-income families and individuals. This year’s conference was the Collaborative’s 20th such effort.

For more information about Couleecap and its programs, visit www.couleecap.org.


Former WISCAP Employee Kathy Cartwright Passes Away

Former WISCAP employee Kathy Cartwright passed away August 12, 2016. She was 64.

Kathy served a Rural Development Specialist in WISCAP’s Rural Development Department for 13 years – from 1999 to 2012. She was a great resource for the work WISCAP did with the rural water and wastewater program, helping local very small communities and expanding opportunities for use of Community Development Block Grants and working relationships with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, USDA-Rural Development and other like organizations.

Prior to coming to WISCAP, Kathy worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, after which she went on to pursue additional studies at the University of Wisconsin, where she also taught and worked at the UW Arboretum. She subsequently worked for several environmental engineering consulting firms before finishing her career with WISCAP.

Kathy is survived by her husband, Joseph McDonald; a brother, Frank Jr.; and several wonderful nieces and nephews. Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association to aid in their efforts with a wide range of dementias; or to the Nature Conservancy to aid in their work preserving native habitats. Both causes were close to Kathy’s heart.

$15.92 per hour

$15.92 per hour.

That is how much a Wisconsin household must earn in Wisconsin to afford a 2-bedroom apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) annual Out of Reach report for 2016.

Each year the federal Housing and Urban Development calculates the fair market rent for housing based on a number of factors including economic conditions and housing demand. The calculations are used to determine eligibility for housing subsidies. This year the statewide fair market rent for a 2-bedroom apartment was pegged at $848, placing Wisconsin 29th highest among all 50 states.

The NLIHC’s report then translates those rates to determine the wages needed to afford housing and utilities, without paying more than 30% of income for housing. According to the Coalition, there is no state in the country where a person earning the prevailing minimum wage and working full-time can afford a one-bedroom apartment.  In Wisconsin a minimum wage earner meeting the 30% standard could afford just $377 in rent.

Renters make up about 32% of all wage earners, or more than 740,000, in the state and have an average hourly wage of $12.07. The largest number of renting households is in Milwaukee County, with more than 243,000.

The Fair Market rents in Wisconsin range from $658 per month to $1,027.

NLIHC points out that the affordable housing problems are really two-fold, stagnant or inadequate wages and the rising rents and availability of affordable housing.

“The declining inflation-adjusted value of the federal minimum wage contributes to wage inequality and the housing affordability challenges faced by low wage workers,” according to the NILHC. Even though 22 local jurisdictions have minimum wages above prevailing state federal norms, “(They} all fall short of the one-bedroom and two-bedroom Housing Wage.” Two separate pieces of legislation before Congress aimed at increasing the minimum wage would still fall short of Wisconsin’s Housing Wage by almost $2.00 per hour.

The demand for rental housing is also at its highest level since the 1960s. In the last 10 years the U.S. has added 9 million renter households while adding just 8.2 million rentals units. The Coalition notes that “vacancy rates are at their lowest levels since 1985 and rents have risen at an annual rate of 3.5%, the fastest pace in three decades.” Because of high development costs, developers target new rental units to the upper end of the rental market where rents are higher.  The NLIHC report notes that nearly three-quarters of the rental housing is occupied by households in the bottom three-fifths of the U.S. income distribution.

The NLIHC’s Out of Reach study can be found at www.nlihc.org. For further information, please contact Bob Jones, WISCAP’s Executive Director, at bjones@wiscap.org.

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The Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) is the statewide association for Wisconsin’s sixteen (16) Community Action Agencies and three single-purpose agencies with statewide focus. Read more


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