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Unlocking Racine: New initiative from Racine County Eye will look into housing issues across the county

Stories will range from those experiencing homelessness to the challenges of increasing rents and the barriers faced by new homeowners.
unlocking racine
Posted at 9:43 PM, Aug 24, 2022

RACINE, Wis. — Our partners at the Racine County Eye are launching a new Initiative in September called "Unlocking Racine." TMJ4 News will also be collaborating on the year-long, multi-faceted project.

Stories will range from those experiencing homelessness to the challenges of increasing rents and the barriers faced by new homeowners.

Racine County Eye CEO Denise Lockwood said the idea for "Unlocking Racine" started when she got a phone call from a Racine woman describing her living conditions at an apartment complex. The woman shared with Lockwood that there were bullet holes in the walls and bottles of urine in the hallway.

"That place didn't have a fire extinguisher, they didn't have the fire lights, the emergency lights that you're supposed to have by law. And she was scared," Lockwood said.

As Lockwood learned more, she found a plethora of stories related to housing issues across the county.

"We experience this problem in a lot of different ways. For a business owner on Main Street, they may have an issue with people who are homeless (and) panhandling. Or an employer may not have their best employee show up for work because they're getting evicted," Lockwood said of about the potential stories that may be told over the next year.

Esther Roberts is a housing advocate that has worked with people experiencing housing instability for the last 12 years. She's now collaborating with Lockwood on "Unlocking Racine."

Roberts identified the power imbalance between landlords and tenants as a key issue. She shared a story about one family she worked with that was renting a home.

"There had been a toilet that had not been flushing for three months. This mother had three children, she had been using the neighbors' bathroom for three months," Roberts shared. "She was finally so fed up because it smelled so bad and couldn't fix it herself and so she just moved out. That's how eviction happens in the rental community."

Lockwood also shared a preview with us of one of the first stories that will be featured in the project.

"I'm talking to a woman who has five children, who was the victim of a shooting. Her youngest son is three and he just tested positive for lead poisoning because of the lead-based paint in the house," Lockwood said.

"Unlocking Racine" will also feature an art component as part of the storytelling.

"There is going to be an art show where you're going to have 10 doors... so they're going to focus on like what is that problem, what does that challenge look like for that person. Then the windows are going to actually focus on the opportunities and the barriers. And the Keys are going to be focused on solutions," Lockwood said.

Ultimately, the hope is that through this reporting, solutions will be identified to help and solve the very real problems families face every day.

To get involved or share your story, click here.

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