Dozens Flock to Homeless Services Fair

Oct 18, 2013

Services ranged from health care to hair cuts
Credit Marti Mikkelson

Homeless people were invited Thursday to Marquette University. The campus hosted a fair for people needing basic services.

It offered everything from haircuts to dental screenings to a warm meal.

Antwaun Miller is carrying a bedroll on his shoulder. He’s 27 years old and says he’s been homeless since losing his job as a nursing assistant a year ago.

“I couldn’t afford housing anymore so I stay out on the streets now. I sleep under the bridge,” Miller says.

Miller is searching for shelter and work. He says he’s been applying for positions in the health care industry and hopes something breaks soon.

Craig Glenn believes his degree in broadcasting and experience as a radio announcer will eventually land him a job. He says he came to Milwaukee from Georgia in August and lived with his girlfriend for a few weeks, but they broke up. Lately, he’s been staying at the Guest House, an emergency shelter.

“This is my first experience with homelessness. I’m 54 years old. It’s not really about being homeless, it’s about people helping people, it can happen to anybody,” Glenn says.

While Glenn scours the booths for housing options, he signs up for the free minutes a phone service vendor is offering. He says he takes comfort knowing he’s not alone.

The non-profit group, Continuum of Care sponsored Thursday’s event. The group estimates that, on any given day, more than 1,500 people in the Milwaukee area are homeless. Volunteer Julianna Nailen says she’s seen disturbing trends.

“We’ve got a lot of veterans on the street. The government is supposed to be taking care of our veterans, they served our country but you’re finding half of these homeless people on the street are veterans,” Nailen says.

Nailen describes Milwaukee’s homeless situation as worse than it was a few years ago. She attends MATC and says it’s not unusual to walk past abandoned buildings near campus and see people huddling inside.

Not everyone at today’s service fair is homeless – it’s also for people at risk of becoming homeless. Katherine Peterson says she survived a recent bout of ovarian cancer. The 61-year-old has come with a friend to get whatever help she can.

“Legal aid, health, practically anything and everything. Dental, clothing, haircut, we’re going over to the health screening and getting paperwork for social security,” Peterson says.

Among groups that extended services Thursday - the Milwaukee Health Department, the Salvation Army and Hunger Task Force. During my visit, the room was never empty.