Milwaukee Co. Executive shares memories of eviction, how he's prepared to help others

Posted at 1:37 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 09:20:54-04

Evictions are on the verge of becoming a bigger crisis as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on homeowners and renters.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley shared his own haunting eviction experience with TMJ4's Charles Benson as the county races to get resources to those who need it.

The old neighborhood near 23rd and Burleigh still remembers David Crowley growing up here.

"I see you on the news all the time," says a friend driving by. "I'm proud of you man."

Crowley thanks him, as other familiar faces appear.

"That's Miss Arlean," said Crowley as she shouts back: "Hey, hey David, how are you?"

Benson: How much of what happened in this neighborhood is part of your DNA and your experience?
Crowley: I mean, a lot.

That's because a lot happened here, some happy times: "Playing hide and seek and climbing trees."

But hardship as well, "This is the place my house was located."

The two-story four-bedroom home that his father bought and fixed up is gone but not the memories of being evicted.

"He couldn't pay the taxes, we didn't have any running water, we didn't have any heat or electricity," said Crowley.

Back then, Crowley says his parents struggled with drug addiction but still worked. They had strict rules about who he was hanging out with and being home on time at night.

But the eviction cycle continued.

"If I'm not mistaken, we were evicted about, after moving from here, three times within a two-year span," said Crowley.

Crowley says that painful experience has prepared him for the eviction crisis in Milwaukee County caused by the COVID 19 pandemic.

Evictions are up year over year by 26% in June with nearly 1,500, but trending lower in July.

But help is here: $7 million in federal CARES Act money.

So far, 2,100 people have signed up for help through Milwaukee County's Eviction Prevention Effort.

10,000 have called about the program. Up to $3,000 dollar is available to cover rent.

And just like the virus, evictions have disproportionately hit African Americans.

When asked how to break the eviction cycle, Crowley pauses and sighs, he knows there's no one easy answer.

The County Executive says it includes a combination of creating good-paying family sustainable jobs, teaching financial literacy, and increasing access to home loans to buy versus rent.

"Give more people of color access to neighborhoods, not just here in the city of Milwaukee but throughout Milwaukee County," said Crowley.

Crowley credit his days at Urban Underground, a nonprofit committed to helping Milwaukee's youth, for teaching him to love his community, work for change, and became a leader.

But his family could already see that in him at an early age.

Crowley: I'll never forget the days - I'm a six-year-old and my aunt calls me governor.
Benson: Why is that, six years old?
Crowley: Well, I've always wanted to take care of other people.

He's doing that now at the age 34, married with a family and the first African American elected to lead the county executive position.

"I could have been angry about my experiences but in a reality, it has been a stepping stone," said Crowley. "And it's actually prepared me for a position like being Milwaukee County Executive."

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