You know, dear readers, it can be discouraging when Dane County says that they don't believe in funding our services. We believe in our work, and we see that our services are unique in Dane County, and in fact all of Wisconsin. To re-energize in times of crisis, we look to our clients. You are the reason we fight to do what we do. This morning, I see an email from a family whose baby has dangerously high lead levels, a tenant who has been denied a service animal, and a landlord whose tenants have severely damaged the rental home. All these people need our help, and we will help them -- but we will need your help to keep doing it!
Here is What's Happening:
Dane County Human Services is recommending that County Executive Joe Parisi cut all county funding to the Tenant Resource Center. This would be a 1/3 cut to our budget! With this funding cut, we would only be able to serve clients inside the City of Madison, UW-Madison students, and people outside of Dane County.
For everyone else, this would mean: no access to our Security Deposit Loan Fund, no mediation services at court, no Housing Crisis Funds grants for eviction prevention, no access to our 45 hours/week of immediate walk-in services, and no access to our one-on-one expertise in tenant/landlord law. Additionally, with a cut this big, all of our remaining clients will be impacted. Staff will lose their jobs, we'll have to reduce our hours, clients will have to wait longer for help, and we'll struggle to maintain bilingual services in Spanish and Hmoob.
Here's How You Can Help:
- Email Joe Parisi and ask him to restore critical funding for tenants in Dane County: Parisi@CountyofDane.com. Tell him you think that he's wrong and that this budget cuts needed services that only the TRC can provide.
- Register in Support of the Tenant Resource Center on Wednesday Sept. 16 at 6pm at the Human Services Budget Hearing at the Alliant Energy Center.
- Speak in Support of the Tenant Resource Center on Wednesday Sept. 16 at 6pm at the Human Services Budget Hearing at the Alliant Energy Center. Tell Joe Parisis you think that he's wrong and that this budget cuts needed services that only the TRC can provide.
- Like us on Facebook and sign up to attend our events: https://www.facebook.com/Tenant-Resource-Center-165122216982
Here is Everything You Need to Know:
To recap: There were listening sessions on Sept. 1 & 2 in Fitchburg and Sun Prairie. We flooded them! Our staff and our amazing volunteers were by far the biggest group there. (In fact, in Sun Prairie, our people were the only people there to speak.) We spoke, and said what we wanted to say. County Executive Joe Parisi nodded and took notes, but it appears nothing has changed, and that we have not had an impact yet.
Mr. Parisi says: "There are no services being cut as a result of this [proposal] process. As stated in the RFP [Request For Proposals], the goal was to expand efficient delivery of housing case management services, information and referral services, tenant/landlord mediation, and delivery of eviction prevention/rent assistance to Dane County residents at the Dane County Job Center and neighborhood-based locations (Joining Forces for Families offices) throughout the county, and in partnership with the existing coordinated intake system." (Quoted from an email sent to attendees of the listening sessions)
We believe Mr. Parisi is wrong, and we need your help to explain it to him. If Community Action Coalition is awarded the $95,000 that has been cut from the TRC, the following programs will in fact be completely lost:
- Security Deposit Loan Fund (for Dane County residents who live outside the City of Madison): We saw a need for help with security deposits in Dane County, and developed a program with Madison Mennonite Church to distribute small loans for security deposits. Many clients come to us who have been flooded with medical bills, unemployment or underemployment, and are being forced to move out of a home because they can no longer afford it. They need help paying a deposit on a new place in order to avoid homelessness, so we loan them part of the money, and set up an interest-free repayment plan. We are the only place that offers this kind of help! CAC recently gave up their security deposit assistance program, and most of the rest of the places that folks can get help from have strict requirements which many people don't meet. Our clients needed this program desperately and so we found a way to provide it with the limited funds we receive. Joe Parisi doesn't see this as important and so the agency that gets this contract won't have to provide a security deposit loan fund. Therefore, these services will be "cut" for Dane County residents who live outside the City of Madison.
- Housing Crisis Fund (for Dane County residents who live outside the City of Madison): We get funding from a mix of private donors and Dane County each year, in order to help people keep their housing. The Dane County money would be re-allocated to the agency that gets this contract, but that agency would have few stipulations on how those funds could be used. Our Housing Crisis Fund is small and effective; we give it out in small increments that guarantee someone can pay the last amount they owe. We are flexible enough to serve many clients, in many situations. Other agencies rarely have this flexibility, which hinders the kind of clients they are able to help. We believe our method is the best for our clients. They needed this flexible funding and we found a way to provide it with the limited funds we receive. Joe Parisi doesn't see this flexibility and private fundraising as important and so the agency that gets this contract won't have to provide it. Therefore, these services will be "cut" for Dane County residents who live outside the City of Madison.
- Mediation at Eviction Court (for Dane County residents who live outside the City of Madison). Our staff organizes and supports highly trained mediators to be at Small Claims Court in Dane County. They help tenants and landlords negotiate and work together through a high-stress conflict, and come to a mutual agreement for avoiding the expense and crisis of an eviction. For folks who are on the brink of losing their housing, mediation can mean the difference between a roof over their heads and being on the street. Our clients and the Court Commissioners depend on this highly successful program and we found a way to provide it with the limited funds we receive. Joe Parisi doesn't see this as important and so the agency that gets this contract won't have to provide mediation at Small Claims Court. Therefore, these services will be "cut" for Dane County residents who live outside the City of Madison.
- Housing Counseling (for Dane County residents who live outside the City of Madison). The County funding allows us to serve people in Fitchburg, Stoughton, Sun Prairie, Mazomanie - the places inside Dane County that are not inside the City of Madison. We educate tenants, landlords, services providers, lawyers, police officers, sheriffs about tenant-landlord law, and help people find solutions to problems that sit at the core of their lives. Housing is a basic need, and we try to help people assert their rights around that need. And yet, this service would no longer be available for Dane County residents who live outside the city of Madison. Joe Parisi claims that CAC can provide housing counseling, but they're talking about a totally different service. Both of our agencies know that the TRC has greater expertise in counseling on tenant-landlord laws and remedies. In fact, CAC comes to us to get trained in the first place (along with hundreds of other agencies), and relies on us for follow-up assistance, especially now that tenant-landlord law has become much more complex with all the law changes in the last 3 years. As an agency we are deeply immersed in the tenant-landlord law changes and reference these laws all day, and have woven them together with our services on finding and paying for housing. CAC provides a diversity of needed services, but their case managers are simply not doing TRC housing counseling! They are unable to be experts in this area of tenant-landlord law, since it takes an agency-wide focus like we are committed to doing. (As an illustration, look at our websites and see if ours or theirs better explains the eviction process). Our clients need this program desperately and we provide it with the limited funds we receive. Joe Parisi doesn't see this depth of knowledge as important and so the agency that gets this contract won't have to provide it. Therefore, these services will be "cut" for Dane County residents who live outside the City of Madison.
After 35 years of experience here in Dane County, we've developed unique services to meet the needs of our clients. We think our services are substantially different from those that could be offered by any another organization. We think we have the expertise, the knowledge, and the long history of being a part of this community, which shows our long-term commitment to our clients. It's not about the money, it's about the service.
Do you think we are special, too? Please tell Joe Parisi (firstname.lastname@example.org) why you think so. Email him at email@example.com now, and go to the Public Hearing Sept. 16 at 6pm at the Alliant Energy Center. Ask Joe Parisi to restore the $95,000 to the Tenant Resource Center, so that everyone in Dane County can receive our services, not just those in the City of Madison.
We need your help in this!