Changing face of homelessness: mom of three shares her story

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - It's often shrouded in secrecy, but Northeast Wisconsin has a growing problem with homelessness.

Target 2 Investigates has been meeting with families and talking with those on the front lines to find out why some working families cannot find a place to live.

"They call the shelters and there's these wait lists upon wait lists, and there's nowhere to go for these families," says Jessica Ecke of the S.O.F.T. (Supporting Our Families Together) Project. "It's heartbreaking."

At last count, there were 229 singles, adult men or women, who were homeless or at risk in our area, meaning they may be sleeping on a friend or family member's couch.

There were 209 families with no home, according to the House of Hope and Ecumenical Partnership for Housing.

MARIE'S STORY

Marie, who asked that we do not use her real name, is a mom. She is also homeless.

Marie, her three children, and her boyfriend live in a 326-square foot hotel room.

Some of Marie's own family members don't know about her situation.

"I never imagined I'd have to live in a hotel for months and months," Marie says. "And it makes me think, how much longer is this going to last? Are we ever going to get out of this?"

The hotel room is where the family of five eats, plays, and sleeps.

Two elementary-age children sleep sideways on a bed. There's no room for a crib, so Marie and her baby sleep together.

Marie's boyfriend sleeps on the floor.

"We were thinking maybe a month or two before we were able to find a place," Marie tells us.

Marie lost her job of 11 years just before Christmas of 2016. It happened a few months before her son was born.

She lost her housing. She couldn't stay with family. She didn't want her family to sleep in the car.

Marie and her boyfriend used their tax returns and savings to pay for lodging in a hotel.

"Even though we can't save any money, at least they have beds to sleep in and a roof over their heads," Marie says.

Marie says she can't find a job that pays enough to cover child care costs. Her boyfriend works 60-70 hours a week, and makes too much for them to qualify for food assistance, yet not enough to pay for a place to live.

"Every paycheck he gets, he looks at it and is like, well that's gone," Marie tells us.

Marie admits she doesn't have good credit. But without higher income she cannot find a landlord willing to take a second look.

"I called a couple of places and one of the landlords said that he was nervous about the fact that we were living in hotels," Marie says. "So we never heard back from him."

She is not alone.

"We recently had Housing Resource Day, and I would say, probably about eight families came and talked to me. Every one of them was homeless," says Robyn Hallet, Green Bay Housing Administrator.

"We do have kids who sleep in the car at night," says Andrea Pasqualucci, Ashwaubenon Schools social worker, "Families are living in other people's inadequate apartments, their basements. They're crashing on a living room floor."

"There's 200 people that have come to us and said, 'we need help, we're homeless,'" says Matt Roberts, Integrated Community Solutions executive director. "And we can't offer them assistance outside of putting their name on a waiting list right now."

Target 2 Investigates found a few hundred rentals in Brown County available at this time. However, hundreds of families are unable to find a safe and affordable place to live.

Monday on Action 2 News at 10, Target 2 reports on the barriers keeping families from moving into these rentals.