Twenty-nine-year-old Tracy of Eau Claire and her two-year-old daughter Olivia are just two of the 206 people who stayed in Western Dairyland Haven Homeless Shelters during 2008.
They came to Western Dairyland for help after Tracy separated from her husband. They had been living in overcrowded and unsafe conditions while she worked a part-time job for $8 an hour. Tracy was receiving food stamps and medical assistance, but she was still unable to find stable housing, a full-time job, and affordable day care for her daughter. After talking to a Western Dairyland Case Manager, Tracy and Olivia quickly started heading in the right direction.
"I have no idea where we'd be if we didn't get help from Western Dairyland," Tracy said. "I think our worst days are behind us."
They started by staying in one of Western Dairyland's Homeless Shelters. Western Dairyland operates seven shelters -- each is a furnished apartment and serves a single family with children for up to 60 days. After leaving the shelter, Tracy and Olivia moved to a transitional apartment where they paid rent of $200 per month.
They were referred to the Eau Claire County Department of Human Services where Tracy learned about the availability of child care subsidies and emergency homeless grants.
According to Case Manager Karen Smith, finding consistent and affordable child care is a problem for many parents in similar situations, especially single working mothers.
"Without the child care subsidy, everything she earns at her part-time job would go directly to day care," Smith said. "Now she doesn't have to worry about that and she can concentrate on finding a better job and a better place to live."
Now Tracy and Olivia are set to move into a subsidized apartment in Eau Claire were Tracy will contribute rent equal to 30 percent of her income each month. They continue to receive case management and employment services, and Olivia is enrolled in Western Dairyland's Head Start Program.
"It's been great working with everyone at Western Dairyland," Tracy said. "They're on top of things and when they tell you something they follow through. They helped us in ways we never thought possible."