Local Effort Puts Families Into Stable Housing

Sometimes, dreams can come true.

It’s been Madison resident Charlotte Anderson’s dream to have a home that she can call her own. Now, her dream has been realized.

“I’m so happy! I am so happy. United Way is coming in. They’re doing my house. I feel I’ve won the lottery,” said Anderson.

With a hand from the United Way of Dane County, Anderson and her children have a permanent roof over their heads — for the first time.

“You have no idea. This is actually my very first apartment. I am actually paying rent, by myself, for my children,” she said.

Anderson and her family have lived in temporary housing and shelters since moving to Madison in 2009. She’s the proud mother of seven, in her mid-40s. Recently, through the Housing First program, Anderson and family bid farewell to shelter living to apartment life on Madison’s east side.

Anderson describes her new home as her little piece of heaven.

“When I leave here I always know I can come back. I have keys here. Nobody can get in unless I let them in. My children feel safe. They’re so happy,” she said.

Doug Strub, who volunteers with the United Way’s Housing in Action Leadership Team, said the mission of Housing First is to move homeless families into a permanent place so little time is spent in the shelter system. Anderson’s family is among the 92 that have been helped since the program’s inception in 2008.

“And those families include about 200 children,” Strub said, adding that many of those families are headed by a single-parent — mainly moms.

According to statistics from United Way Dane County, Housing First is twice as effective and costs 50 percent less than shelters — helping families with children secure long-term stable housing.

“As a family, as a unit, as a whole, we are becoming the very people that have always dreamed of us becoming,” said Anderson.

In addition to providing shelter, Housing First also helps to provide families with job and financial counseling. Plus, families are put in contact with services they may not be aware of — case management, landlord-tenant connections and access to food.

Thursday marks the Housing First Challenge as United Way helps to make a difference in the lives of four families.

Four volunteer teams from area businesses — Placon, Globe University, Summit Credit Union and TASC — will compete to redecorate four apartments occupied by families receiving the services of Housing First. The teams will gather donated essential items to furnish and decorate the apartments.

Local celebrities and dignitaries will judge the makeovers.