Affordable housing crisis affects local community member

Published: Feb. 23, 2020 at 9:34 PM CST
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Only 10% of all people in Eau Claire that are in need of housing are actually being housed, according to JONAH of the Chippewa Valley Affordable Housing Task Force

Anne Brown is one of the many people being affected by the affordable housing crisis in Eau Claire.

"I became homeless in August of 2018," Brown said.

Because of health issues, the 62-year old, former attorney had to close her office in 2012, eventually leading her to become homeless.

“I lived in my jeep for that month with my dog Ace," Brown said.

Now, Brown is living off of her Social Security Disability payments.

"My income is now $1,077 per month, which according to guidelines, would mean that I could afford a $300 a month apartment which included utility costs,” Brown said. “Obviously there isn't anything in Eau Claire or anywhere else probably in the country that fits those criteria."

People affected by the affordable housing problem in Eau Claire say that tackling the issue depends on the help of the community. Founder of JONAH of the Chippewa Valley, Paul Savides says the group is working to reduce the homelessness in Eau Claire.

"The way JONAH works is that we don't provide direct services, but what we do is work with folks in the affected community, those who have the problem, to help train them to have a voice," Savides said.

JONAH is helping people like Anne Brown.

"When I contacted the city of Eau Claire housing authority regarding the fact that I lost my home and was living in my jeep, they told me that I would get toward the top of the list because I was actually living in my vehicle," Brown said.

But, even at the top of the list, getting help still takes time.

"That meant that they might be able to help me by March of the following year and this was the first week of August," Brown said.

Brown says luckily the task force has done a lot to help the community-wide struggle dealing with affordable housing, like giving her and others hope to make a change.

"Clearly more affordable housing needs to be built and building costs are very high,” Brown said. “There has to be a way to find the money to accomplish that.”