The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority Foundation, Inc. recently awarded grant funds to four Madison organizations working to house various special needs populations.

The WHEDA Foundation created the Housing Grant Program in 1985, focusing on supporting the development or improvement of housing facilities in Wisconsin for low-income persons with special needs, Kevin Fischer, WHEDA spokesperson, said. Since the grant’s creation, the WHEDA Foundation has given 1,058 awards totaling $22,968,000.

Fischer said the grants are designed to help special needs populations specifically the homeless, runaways, alcohol or drug dependent people, people in need of protective services, domestic abuse victims, developmentally disabled people, people living with HIV and individuals or families who do not have access to traditional or permanent housing.

This year, out of $500,000 awarded, $69,768 was given to organizations in Madison. The Bayview Foundation, Housing Initiatives, Inc., Women in Transition and Porchlight, Inc. all received grant funds. WHEDA awarded Porchlight, Inc. the highest amount of grant money possible for one group.

“These housing providers through their applications were deemed the best of the best,” Fischer said. 

Fischer said there are two main categories for grant recipients: the emergency/transitional housing category and the permanent housing category. All four Madison organizations were part of the permanent housing category.

This year, 48 requests were submitted and 28 organizations received funding.

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Some of the Madison projects included developing supportive housing for homeless vets, improving lighting in resident rooms, addressing accessibility concerns and installing fire suppression systems in common area kitchens.

“These grants go to housing providers who take in the neediest of the needy to repair and rehab efforts to these grants funded to help upgrade these facilities thereby offering a safe haven for people who find themselves for whatever reasons to be in dire situations,” Fischer said.

One of the groups who received funding was Women in Transition, an organization that provides residential and social services to adult women who experience a severe and persistent mental illness, according to its Facebook page.

Kathy Lemke, the executive director of Women in Transition, said the grant money would mainly fix the flooring in its housing facility by replacing the carpeting and cracked vinyl tile.

“Without them we would not have been able to do the amount of improvements to our building that have been done over the last umpteen years,” Lemke said.

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She said Women in Transition has received the WHEDA grant money multiple times over the past 20 years.

Lemke said the grants mainly help to maintain the existing properties. She said this is a way to help provide a safe and secure environment for the women they serve.

Fischer said WHEDA often hears from leaders in Madison and other parts of the state that there is a need to address housing issues in the state. He also said many leaders continue to repeat a desire for more affordable housing, supportive housing and ways to fight homelessness.

“We feel very fortunate that we have this ability, this opportunity to provide these grants,” Fischer said.