On June 24 Family Promise of Waukesha County received a conditional use permit for 139 E. North Street in Waukesha County. While there are still some steps to take before we are able to close on the building, it does move us closer to the purchase of this facility as a new Day/Family Resource Center. Therefore, it seems like a good time to update you on the status of our attempts to purchase a building for Family Promise of Waukesha County.
First, a review why we are considering a move from Wales. The biggest issue with the current location is that it limits our ability to assist families. The lease we currently have in Wales will end on August 31, 2020. Those who were initially involved in finding the Wales site, have affirmed that it was never ideal, but there were limited options. These are the issues we are attempting to address:
- Serving families without access to public transportation has limited our ability to accept families or caused others to depart before finishing the program.
- Wales and surrounding area, has little access to W2 funded child-care. An inability to place children in childcare prevents a family from entering the program or if they do, limits their ability to get a job or the hours they are available.
- A lack of low-income housing in this sector of Waukesha County means families are unlikely to permanently settle in this area. The result is that children are sometimes moved from their previous school to the Kettle Moraine School District to a third school district once they are settled. Moving children this often adds to the chaos involved in homelessness.
- Access to social service agencies located near Waukesha is imperative to help families move out of poverty.
- The site itself provides no privacy for staff or guests. There is no space for a case manager to meet privately with a family or for a staff member to take a confidential phone call.
- The site does not have enough storage space.
- We may reduce our monthly costs with a new facility.
Second, we have made significant progress toward purchasing the building. Those steps include a very positive building inspection, receiving a conditional use permit from the city of Waukesha and a possible award of funds from a Community Development Block Grant to help with the purchase and renovation of the facility. These are important steps and we are grateful to be moving in the right direction.
However, until we officially close on the property anything can happen. Since the Community Development Block Grant originates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) there are federal requirements to be followed. Ultimately if HUD does not sign off, we will not be able to receive financing. Another task we continue to explore are estimates on the few improvements that need to be completed. The point is, even though we are cautiously optimistic we are keeping our head down and working diligently to ensure this decision is right for the future of Family Promise of Waukesha County.
Change is never easy. Please know that this move is not about moving away from anyone it is about moving to a location that can allow us to best serve families. If Covid-19 did not exist, we would maintain a rotational model of shelter and most volunteers would never know the difference. All that would be different is the location from which the van would originate. Covid-19 complicates things but please know you are needed, your community is needed, you support is needed, and your care is needed. It is your involvement that makes Family Promise unique and effective.
The article in the Waukesha Freeman mentions concern from neighbors about parking, having another homeless shelter nearby and the viability of Family Promise. The concerns of those who spoke were heard. When the facility is officially ours, it will be important for us to be reach out and help them understand who we are and who we help. We need to demonstrate that we are good neighbors. It is my suspicion that long time volunteers, supporters, donors, congregations, and businesses cannot believe anyone would have an issue with Family Promise. You have gotten to know the families and their stories. You see the progress and hard work they have made in their lives. You know the organization and its strength is the involvement of community members, congregations, and businesses. I have been told there was a time when Family Promise of Waukesha County first began and located in Wales that there were some who said, “not in my back yard.” Now, five years later, as a new Executive Director, I have not heard those comments. It is because of the relationships you have formed with the families. We will need you to help us form those same relationships with those who will be new to Family Promise; to listen to their concerns and demonstrate the positive force Family Promise can be in the community.
We continue to move forward still with the hope that everything will be resolved by the end of July. One concern about this update is that over the past few months, things change so quickly. It gives us pause to share a plan because circumstance have often dictated that our best plans must change. Please understand that while we want to be transparent and keep you up to date, we also fully know that things change. We will continue to do our best to keep you informed. We hope you understand. There is a lot ahead of us yet.
Finally, we must take one moment to thank Joe DeKlotz who has been deeply involved in this project. His experience and expertise have been invaluable. Joe has been involved at Family Promise as secretary of the board of directors, and a key leader from Acts 2 support congregation. Thank you, Joe!