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According to the 2018 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, more than a third of the city of La Crosse residents have a housing need. The analysis also states  that an individual working at minimum wage would have to work 84 hours per week to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in La Crosse County without it being a cost burden.

 This is an affordable housing crisis. In an effort to ease the burden for some families, the Salvation Army offers rent assistance to women in the La Crosse area.

The rent assistance program is a lifeline for women who face problems with housing. 

In one case, a single working mother just had a baby and took unpaid maternity leave to care for and bond with her newborn child and recover. In doing so, she fell behind on rent. She had planned to use her tax return refund to cover the income gap for her family, but the return took longer than expected.  The Salvation Army was able to help cover the gap.

 Another woman had social security issues with her ex-husband that resulted in significant fees. She needed extra assistance for housing payments.

The stories of the women that walk through the door of the Salvation Army are each unique, and the flexibility of the rent assistance program is critical to supporting women and their families through their housing challenges.

In addition to stop-gap financial assistance, the program provides  intensive case management services to help women better navigate contributing factors to their housing insecurity. For example, case managers connect women to budgeting assistance, information on affordable housing options, and they sometimes work with landlords to resolve issues. The program is committed to ensuring that each woman who walks through the door will leave with the knowledge or tool that works for her.

The Salvation Army’s assistance, is just that, assistance. It is a helpful tool in providing connections. For some, it’s a temporary weight off their shoulders that allows them to navigate the unexpected. Although the Salvation Army’s rent assistance program is doing all it can to assist individuals, it is a thread of a larger safety net. To truly solve the issue for women and families who face housing insecurity, La Crosse must do something about rent affordability.

Results from the American Community Survey indicate that over 27 percent of housing in the La Crosse area is in substandard condition and nearly 28 percent is cost-burdening. The lack of quality and affordability in the local housing market affects the health and well-being of the entire community as individuals health and financial security is compromised.

Despite best efforts of Salvation Army and other local housing programs, there is still an unmet need. The Salvation Army encourages those who want to help to start by educating themselves about needs within the community and what local programs are doing to address the issue. Then consider how your skills and resources might best be used as a catalyst for change.