Wisconsin Department of Children and Familiies
Community Service Block Grant
The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) provides federal funding to states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories for anti-poverty programs operated by a nationwide network of over 1,000 Community Action Agencies. Community Action Agencies are locally controlled private or public nonprofit organizations that seek to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty with programs tailored to specific local needs. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) distributes CSBG funding through grants to Wisconsin’s 16 local Community Action Agencies and two statewide agencies that focus on serving special populations.
Housing Stability & Homeownership
Housing Stability & Homeownership
WISCAP believes housing is a human right. Affordable housing is at a crisis point across the country. Stable housing is critical to thriving communities. With stable housing we can work with families get out of poverty and provide better developmental outcomes for children. In Wisconsin there are over 151,000 renting households with incomes below 50% AMI spending over 50% of their income on rent. This crisis impacts the most vulnerable.
WISCAP and its agencies know that stable housing is foundational for healthy communities. The impact of housing instability can have lasting impact on children. The impacts of a lack of affordability are most pronounced in the lowest income households and even more prevalent in households of color. Nationally 36% of black households with children are suffering rent arrears.
Take Root Wisconsin
Homeownership remains a central part of the American dream despite increasing barriers to owning a home such as poor housing stock, stagnant wages, and high interest rates. Unlike renting, homeowners are able to build wealth and develop long-term connections to neighbors. For decades programs to increase homeownership were celebrated strategies to build a healthy middle class. Unfortunately, many programs such as the GI bill, intentionally discriminated against people of color, who were not allowed access to the benefits. These policies resulted in high rates of segregation, and lower rates of homeownership among Black and Hispanic populations.
In 2019 the Brookings Institute conducted a study using data from the American Community Survey and named Milwaukee, Wisconsin the most segregated city in the United States. Shortly after this publication was released, many across the state, including WISCAP, began working towards strategies to address housing discrimination and homeownership among people of color and low-income populations. Our solution, following the effective Take Root Milwaukee program, became Take Root Wisconsin.
Take Root® Wisconsin is a Statewide Homeownership Network that brings together private-public stakeholders to increase homeownership and help people fix and stay in their homes. The Network is a consortium of community organizations, housing counseling agencies, Realtors, lenders, government leaders, and other groups working to promote sustainable homeownership. As a program within WISCAP, the Network will bring together new stakeholders, promote and develop new resources, implement strategies to dismantle housing discrimination and inequities, and more.
Take Root Wisconsin Membership
Badger State Housing Alliance
The Badger State Housing Alliance is a statewide collective focused on addressing the affordable housing crisis in Wisconsin.
Anyone can sign up to receive the Badger State Housing Alliance Newsletter and attend free workshops.
Please share information about the Badger State Housing Alliance with colleagues, elected officials, friends, family members or anyone you think would benefit from this effort.
Learn more about BSHA
Adapting to climate change is especially difficult for low-income populations who often have fewer resource to invest in energy efficient heating and cooling technologies. WISCAP member agencies hire professional weatherization staff and partner with local companies to make repairs homes and apartment buildings so they are more energy efficient. These improvements include installing modern energy-efficient appliances and furnace, but also includes improving insulation. These improvements can save homeowners and renters on average $400 per year while improving the health and safety of the local housing stock, which benefits the entire community.
WISCAP and member agencies partner with the Wisconsin Department of Administration to make the Weatherization programs more effective and impactful. Innovations include creating career pathways for high-school graduates to become weatherization professionals and installing solar panels during existing weatherization projects. In 2022, the WISCAP network weatherized 2,555 homes and provided more than $12 million dollars in energy assistance. As technologies continue to evolve, WISCAP and ensure everyone has access to renewable green energy.
Find Local Assistance
In 2021, the Department of Public Instruction and other public systems stems such as Head Start identified more than 16,454 homeless children and youth (age zero to 12th grade) In Wisconsin. Additionally, the National Alliance to End Homelessness predict on any given day there are 4,775 unhoused adults in Wisconsin. This only follows since 11% of households spend 50% or more of their income on housing. For those who are the most cost-burdened, unexpected expenses or any reduction in income can be catastrophic. A simple cold or vehicle maintenance expense become very real threats for households who are already sacrificing so much to survive. Often those who lose their housing face incredible difficulty accessing other benefits or program because they no longer have an address or are unable to remain in one place long enough to complete the steps needed to apply for programs or services. These challenges can have significant long-term consequences for those experiencing homelessness, but especially for pregnant women and children. Research shows the experience of homelessness are associated with mental health issues, exposure to violence, and poor education and health outcomes.
While many programs and policies work to respond to the needs of the unhoused, more is needed to increase access to housing and raise incomes to help people maintain their homes. It may seem counterintuitive, but a study done in La Crosse, Wisconsin found offering permanent housing and support from a case worker saved the county more than $40,000 per person, per year. The cost savings were observed through decreases in costs associated with expensive public services such as shelters, jail, state mental health facilities and emergency room visits. Let’s assume this study is scalable, if tomorrow housing programs could provide housing for the 4,775 unhoused adults and 16,454 unhoused children it would cost approximately $359 million dollars, however it would actually save Wisconsin taxpayers $995 million dollars per year. That’s a $2.77 return for every dollar invested. The program cost represents less than one percent or 1% of the 2023 State of Wisconsin Budget.
WISCAP and member agencies work closely with state agencies, advocates and non-traditional partners advocate for affordable housing and living wages for everyone. We believe, effective housing for all policy is common sense, humane, and actionable.
Help for the Unhoused
Wisconsin Help for Homeowners
Wisconsin Help for Homeowners is a pandemic relief program that can help homeowners with overdue bills like mortgage payments, property taxes, and utilities. The program is open to individuals and families who live in Wisconsin with overdue housing-related bills, both with and without a mortgage, who meet income and other eligibility requirements, and have experienced a qualified economic hardship since January 21, 2020.
All eligibility and application information regarding the WHH program can be found online at Department of Administration.
Apply for Assistance
WHH has distributed over $67 Million in Mortgage Assistance since 2021.
Workforce Development & Economic Security
WISCAP supports statewide efforts to ensure everyone has the skills and opportunities needed to achieve economic stability.
Workforce Innovation Grant- Nursing Skills Program
In 2022, WISCAP was awarded $4.8 Million in funding from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Workforce Innovation Grant in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to support sustainable workforce development solutions. WISCAP’s network and LeadingAge Wisconsin, a membership association for long-term care facilities, have committed to utilizing these funds to increase Wisconsin’s nursing workforce through the Nursing Skills Program by providing opportunities for at least 142 low to moderate-income individuals to upskill or reskill into a high demand
This program provides eligible Wisconsin residents with funding for tuition, transportation, childcare, and other school-related expenses. Participants receive individual support and wrap-around services from participating Community Action Agencies to ensure their success. Participants need to complete their training and be ready to enter the nursing workforce by the end of the project period – June 30, 2025.
Eligible Training Programs
- Certified Nursing Assistant
- Licensed Practical Nurse
- Medical Assistant
- Associate Degree Nurse
- Registered Nurse
Nursing Skills Program
WISCAP Member Agencies offering the Nursing Skills Program
The WISCAP supports member agencies in the administration of Workforce Development and Economic Security programs. One example of these programs is the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Jobs and Business Development initiative which helps low-income entrepreneurs develop and grow small businesses. Since its inception in 1989, the Jobs and Business Development initiative has created more than 2,200 new businesses and 6,200 new jobs.
Low-income individuals interested in entrepreneurship receive a variety of services to help them successfully open their own business, including:
- Creation of business feasibility studies.
- Creation of business, financial and marketing plans.
- Development of business management skills.
- Resolution of credit issues.
- Assistance accessing financial resources.
- Business expansion assistance to create additional jobs
Find A TEFAP Pantry
Health & Food Security
WISCAP’s supports statewide Health & Food Security efforts to ensure everyone has access to healthy nutritious food.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program
The hunger and food insecurity suffered daily by tens of thousands of Wisconsinites occurs when a household cannot afford or is uncertain of having sufficient, healthy food because of inadequate income. An estimated 10.5% of Wisconsin households were food insecure – before the onset of the pandemic – which has caused a significant increase in families at risk of hunger. Rates are highest among single parent families, households with children, and African American and Hispanic households.
Families will skip meals, reduce the frequency or quality of meals, buy cheap, unhealthy but filling foods in order to get by. It is well documented that parents often skip or reduce their own meals to ensure their children have enough to eat.
Thankfully, federal nutrition programs – like SNAP, school meals, WIC, TEFAP, and other commodity-based programs – as well as the network of local emergency food providers – provide an essential nutritional safety net to help protect families from hunger.
Yet, food insecurity is foremost not a condition, but a symptom – a particularly painful and persistent symptom – of our local, state, and national failure to fundamentally confront and eliminate economic inequality. Food insecurity stands at the crossroads of a host of causal factors – social, corporate, economic, cultural, personal, educational, and governmental – with which it is deeply intertwined. When households lack sufficient income to meet their basic needs – whether housing, utilities, health care, education, childcare, and transportation – families will first prioritize inflexible bills – like rent, electricity, heat, gas that cannot be negotiated – thus reducing amount of money in the household budget to buy food. Thus, economic insecurity ‘translates into’ food insecurity.
Therefore the key to preventing hunger & ending food insecurity, involves much more than effective nutrition programs, but includes urgent priorities like increasing the availability of jobs that pay a family supporting wage and offer good benefits, raising the minimum wage, making greater public and private investments in affordable housing, in energy assistance and weatherization, in expanding access to quality affordable health care and childcare, making investments in education and training, in public and private transportation, in business development assistance to entrepreneurs. In these investments lay the real solutions.
Wisconsin’s network of Community Action Agencies, even as they respond to the urgent needs and circumstances of low-income people today, such as food insecurity, remain deeply committed and focused on finding and implementing these structural solutions to reduce and eliminate poverty in the long-term.
Find A Food Pantry
Social Determinants of Health
To address long-standing health inequities and disparities the Wisconsin Department of Health provides funding to WISCAP and several member agencies to hire and train Community Health Workers. Community Health Workers outreach to underserved communities and help connect them to health services in order to improve the health and wellbeing of the entire community. By improving the health of people who experience the greatest barriers to health and wellness, this reduces incidents of disease transmission, improves health outcomes by preventing illness and expensive health care interventions.
The WISCAP member agencies are currently working to reach underserved groups to ensure everyone who wants a COVID vaccine or booster can receive one. Our network of Community Health Workers receive training and certification through WISCONSIN AHEC.
Social Determinants of Health
Statewide Emergency Response
Responding to Statewide Emergencies & Pandemics
The Wisconsin Community Action Network has always believed we can achieve the impossible. For more than a half-century, we have dreamed big and pushed the boundaries to help everyone in Wisconsin thrive. We believe that focusing our energy on our most vulnerable, lowest-income neighbors creates lasting change for our whole community.
Given our unique history, the Wisconsin Community Action Network is often called on to help tackle statewide problems and emergencies. One of the ways our network stepped in was during the pandemic, WISCAP and our member agencies were responsible for distributing over $725 million dollars in direct aid and pandemic relief. Across the nation, Wisconsin was one of the first states to successfully pilot large scale rental assistance programs to prevent mass evictions and keep Wisconsinites in their homes. We are proud of the strength and possibility of our poverty fighting network.
Federal Emergency Management in Wisconsin
WISCAP works with the Governors office to deploy Federal Emergency Management Associations (FEMA) Response programs during statewide or local emergencies. WISCAP and our member agencies are able to quickly deploy a network of crisis counselors during statewide or regional emergencies. We work with the Governors Office and FEMA to save and sustain lives, minimize suffering and protect property in a timely and effective manner in communities that become overwhelmed by natural disasters, acts of terrorism or other emergencies.
In 2020, WISCAP and Member Agencies provided frontline crisis response for the pandemic via Project Recovery. Member agencies hired and trained local crisis counselors and operate a statewide call center to connect people with resources during the pandemic. Counselors helped people learn stress management skills and cope with the anxiety and uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
Project Recovery helps individuals and communities recover from natural and human-caused disasters through community outreach and access to resources. Wisconsin has been involved with the CCP since 2001. Project Recovery activates when when the Governors Office declares a state of Emergency.
Goals and Principles
The CCP helps people recover and rebuild their lives after a disaster. It supports short-term interventions that involve the following counseling goals:
- Helping disaster survivors understand their current situation and reactions.
- Reducing stress and providing emotional support.
- Assisting survivors in reviewing their disaster recovery options.
- Promoting the use or development of coping strategies.
- Connecting survivors with other people and agencies who can help them in their recovery process.
Key principles that make it different from other survivor support programs are:
- Strengths-based: services promote resilience, empowerment, and recovery.
- Anonymous: Crisis counselors do not classify, label, or diagnose people. No records or case files are kept.
- Outreach-oriented: Crisis counselors deliver services in the communities rather than wait for survivors to seek their assistance.
- Culturally aware: Our staff strives to understand and respect the community and the cultures within the community.
- Conducted in nontraditional settings: Crisis Counselors make contact in homes and communities, not in clinical or office settings.
- Designed to strengthen existing community support systems: supplements, but does not end or replace, existing community systems.
Community Mental Health
Wisconsin Rental Assistance
Wisconsin’s Dept. of Administration Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld announced that the Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance program (WERA), funded by the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program through the U.S. Department of Treasury, will close applications on January 31, 2023, due to low remaining funds.
WISCAP’s partners have distributed over $260M in Emergency Rent Assistance. With federal funds exhausted, Community Action Agencies are providing housing stabilization services in 68 counties. These services include case management, legal and lease application assistance and connection to local services and supports to try to keep people in housing.
Find Housing Resources