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New donation boxes at airport hope to curb homelessness in Milwaukee County

Posted at 1:49 PM, Jul 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-10 15:58:15-04

MILWAUKEE -- Millions pass through General Mitchell International Airport each year and Milwaukee County is hoping to benefit from some of their generosity.

County Executive Chris Abele introduced four new donation boxes at the airport to help support Milwaukee County's Housing First endowment. 

"There is [a lot of potential]," Abele said. "I see a big line. I see a lot of potential change. Change adds up. A lot of people have stuff in their pockets at the airport. We're here to take that stuff out of your pocket and end homelessness."

The donation boxes serve as a reminder to folks who already are pulling loose change out of their pockets when going through TSA checkpoints. James Mathy, Housing Director for Milwaukee County said he got the idea when traveling to Denver. 

"The traffic is much larger than here," Mathy said. "We know from Denver, thy had about $280,000 over three years."

That kind of money would help fund programs for Milwaukee County's Housing First initiative to help eliminate chronic homelessness in the county. In the three years since the program started, they say they've decreased homelessness by more than 40 percent. There are less than 900 homeless people in the county but the group says they're on pace to eliminate it by the end of this year. 

"The idea here is to give them a place to live first," Mathy said. "Then wrap all services around them after housing. That's the way we like to do it here. We made more progress than just about anyone in the country so we know we have the blueprint now to end homelessness. We just need more private funding to get us there."

But it won't just be Wisconsin residents traveling through the airport, donating money. The county thinks others will also donate their money for a worthy cause. 

"We think it's a good thing for Milwaukee County, when visitors come in, to have a sense of pride for Milwaukee County," Mathy said. "Our community really does care about the types of individuals we're serving. It's good for our city, it's good for our county that we care about the types of individuals we're serving."

"When you're emptying out change," Abele said. "You can make real change in the county that we all love."