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Adventurous Spirits and Stomachs Unite!

My friends. Oh my goodness. We CANNOT WAIT to see you all THIS FRIDAY, April 6th for THE IRON CHEF.

This is our tastiest of all fundraisers, wherein daring volunteer amateur chefs create a tasting menu around their mystery ingredient. For this amazing event, we the attendees are the real winners with this delightful food. The food this year will center around Cherries, Basil, Shiitake Mushrooms, Beets or Black Garlic. Join us to eat incredible food, drink delicious drinks and socialize with people who are passionate about social justice and housing. Your taste buds will thank you! We can't wait to see you there.

Chefs and Ingredients! Announcing this year's Iron Chefs and battles:
  • Battle: Shiitake Mushrooms - Sarah Gilmore vs. Samantha Haack
  • Battle: Beets - Conner Wild vs. Matt Koz
  • Battle: Cherries - Christina Wen vs. Diane Brown
  • Battle: Basil - Andrew Walsh & Jennica Skoug vs. Gabriel Clemente
  • Battle: Black Garlic - Steph Tai & Steve Vig

As a side note (and I know that you guys read all the things I have to say for THESE DELIGHTFUL TANGENTIAL MOMENTS), this is a really special event for us. For one, it's fun. It's fulfilling on a lot of levels. For another, the work we do is really tough - we navigate highly imperfect systems with our clients, for whom we care deeply. This event is one of the few things we do that doesn't have substantial cognitive dissonance for us. And you know what? That's cause for celebration. JOIN US! Let's eat delicious things and enjoy one another's company and have a great time!


Laura & the rest of the TRC staff

PS. Don't forget to vote today! 

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Big Share 2018

Hello, Friends! Tomorrow is the The Big Share,* an online day of giving through the Community Shares of Wisconsin. The TRC is so lucky to be a member of Community Shares, and today, they are supporting all their member nonprofits with an amazing, all-out fundraiser, for one day only. 

This is an amazing chance to be part of the work that Community Shares supports. They disperse their funds to local nonprofits working towards environmental and social change, and make a profound impact in our Wisconsin communities.  Together, we can make a truly powerful statement about the work that we want to do here in Wisconsin, and the state we want it to be.

You can support the TRC on this page, or the entire Big Share right here.

One day. One community. Many ways to share. Be part of something bigger than you. 

Keep up with us! Our Facebook page will have updates throughout the day! We will be sharing stories about our work, our clients, our successes and our challenges all day on March 6. The truth is, that our daily lives at the TRC are not easy. We talk to our clients about harrowing moments in their lives. We treat them like people. We  witness their pain. We find solutions. But, it feels good for us all to take a moment, shake off the heavy, and talk about the wins. With your support, we do this to ensure another day doing this work that feels so right, in the midst of a world that doesn't always seem like it cares. 

And you could win, too! We will be giving away prize bags worth more than $300 each, to randomly selected TRC donors throughout the day! Any donation amount qualifies you to win, so give early and give often on March 6. 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
1. Follow the TRC on FacebookThat's where we'll be posting throughout the day. It's also where we'll post who the winners are once names have been drawn.
2. Donate to the TRC through the Big Share page. No donation is too small to help. Donate early and donate often.
3. Win big wins! See what we do! Know that you're part of a community which is doing something meaningful.

Tomorrow's going to be a great day. Hope to see you there. 
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Section 8: Terminations & Disputes

Best Beloveds. We are on the third, and last, part of my Section 8 series (exposé? dissertation? riveting journalistic foray? you decide). 

Even though the process for learning all this has been engaging and eye-opening for me, I understand that reading it may not have the page-turning quality that, say, a Harry Potter book might. But, despite the law references and dry subject matter, there's a heart in here. And, at the risk of becoming sentimental, that's exactly why we do this

Today, I'm diving into terminations from the Section 8 program - when someone receives a notice that their Section 8 voucher will be taken away from them. Inside every Section 8 termination is someone who is terrified that they are going lose their housing. Most likely (because they are low-enough-income to qualify for Section 8 in the first place), they are about to become homeless, if they are not able to successfully dispute the termination. 

So, for every quibbly sentence about definitions of criminal activity, and references to what, exactly, is good cause, there's someone whose stable housing lies in that balance; who may need an advocate to tell them: "I've read about this! It's worth fighting! Try to overturn this!" Many, many clients get their termination notices and think, "this is it. It's already decided. It's over." BUT IT'S NOT OVER. There's so many more questions to be asked, so many more possible outcomes.

I hope that when you read this, you see as I do, all the ways that we can work together to protect those who hold these vouchers, the tired, the poor, the wretched refuse, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. 

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Section 8: Info for Tenants

Hello, fair readers. 

As promised, I'm back with information for tenants about Section 8 vouchers (or housing choice vouchers, to use the proper terminology). I'm thrilled to be writing about this, because we get so so so many questions about how to get these vouchers, how to use these vouchers, how to find housing with these vouchers and how to deal with problems while holding a voucher. 

As a recap, Section 8 vouchers allow a low-income person or family to pay 30ish% of their income as rent to a landlord, and a housing authority pays the rest with funding from HUD. It's amazing when it works, devastating when it doesn't, and all the in-betweens tend to be pretty confusing. 

I was lucky enough to get some guidance from the City of Madison's Marketing Outreach Coordinator, and an attorney at Legal Action, and I'd love to share the fruits of my labors. This week's post is for tenants (last week's post was for landlords!). Next week, I'll address Section 8 terminations.

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Section 8 for Landlords

Dear Land of the Internets,

I have missed writing to you. I have written many of the blog posts on this website, and haven't been in this space since the summer of 2016. I've been in the background here at the TRC, and I have to say, I'm ready to have a voice again. 


To start this new era, I want to talk about Section 8 vouchers. These vouchers, known as housing choice vouchers to those who wish to be politically correct, allow a low-income person or family to pay 30ish% of their income as rent to a landlord, and a housing authority pays the rest. It's a great program, when it works - tenants can live where they wish, landlords have guaranteed payments from a housing authority. Win-win, right? But there are many flaws - there are never enough vouchers for all the people that really need them, and the governing policies can be pretty opaque. 

Additionally, and weirdly, it seems like landlords have super different perspectives on these vouchers. Some say: NEVER (hint: not super legal in Dane County). Some say: ALL I WANT IS TO MAKE HOUSING AVAILABLE TO LOW INCOME PEOPLE. Some say: I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION. (All are emphatic). So, this one's for you, guys. 

I was lucky enough to get some guidance from the City of Madison's Marketing Outreach Coordinator, and an attorney at Legal Action, and I'd love to share the fruits of my labors. This week's post is for landlords. In the coming weeks, we'll address Section 8 for tenants, and Section 8 terminations. 

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TRC is Once Again Serving Dane County

On July 1, 2017, the Tenant Resource Center resumed housing counseling services for communities in Dane County outside of Madison, ending a service gap created by 2015 county budget cuts. Thanks to additional funding, the tenant rights institution has added staff, increased their call capacity, and are now able to help all of Wisconsin.

Services restored to all of Dane County: 

Housing counseling. The Tenant Resource Center gives free information on rental rights and responsibilities to tenants and landlords statewide including all of Dane County. Anyone interested in counseling can call, email or visit the office. The Tenant Resource Center has sample letters, forms, and brochures on most major topics and provides services in Spanish and Hmong.

Mediation. The Tenant Resource Center administers a program where certified mediators facilitate negotiations between tenants and landlords during Small Claims Court eviction hearings. These agreements are often payment plans that allow the tenant to remain in the apartment or move-out dates that give tenants time to arrange a new home. If the terms of the agreement are met, the tenant will not have an eviction on his or her court record. Mediated agreements have the same enforceability as those written by the court commissioner. 

Education and outreach. The Tenant Resource Center provides outreach and education through local workshops and seminars. The organization’s experienced presenters give informative talks around Wisconsin, are available for media interviews and participate in community coalitions. The Tenant Resource Center also provides brochures and teaches a biannual Housing Law Seminar series for landlords and service providers.

The Tenant Resource Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting positive relationships between tenants and landlords throughout Wisconsin. The Tenant Resource Center provides information and referrals, education about rental rights and responsibilities and access to conflict resolution, empowering the community to obtain and maintain quality affordable housing.

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City Info on Downtown Moving Days

Moving on the Isthmus is about to begin - not everyone moves on August 15th - but most do!  Here's some information you may need!

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The Big Share is Tomorrow!

Hello out there! Do you know what's on March 7th? Tomorrow is the Big Share,* and it is nothing less than the TRC's goofiest day of the year

Here are the basics. Tomorrow, we will be:
- Posting Very Silly Pictures all day on our Facebook page. TRC Staff takes over our Facebook page, and badly photoshops me into all kinds of crazy situations. (Some previews are already on Facebook, including this gem, in which I was apparently a world-famous singer in 1985). And it's not just me getting badly photoshopped into world events! Other well-known Madison faces will be appear - just keep tabs on our Facebook page.
- Giving away prizes each hour to those who donate on our Big Share page. Starting at 6am tomorrow, ending at 11:59pm, we will give away prizes hour by hour in the 13 designated Big Share Hours. For each hour, we will draw the name of one or more TRC donor (every sized donation counts!), and that person will get a prize. Keep track of it all on Facebook, and donate through the Big Share to get credit
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Aw, Shucks

Hello, lovelies.  

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For Landlords: Screening Applicants Based on Criminal History

Hey Y'all! HUD put out some new guidelines about using criminal history in housing transactions, and it looks like a big departure from where Wisconsin's been headed, lately. I'm walking through it today, on behalf of landlords trying to sort out what's what.

On June 1, I did this for tenants! Here's the second part, for the landlords. 

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