Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Andrea Waxman

Sex trafficking remains a prominent issue in Milwaukee, but the city is not alone in its struggle to curb the problem. James Nelson has a firsthand knowledge about the dangers of sex trafficking. He was once a pimp. Now, he’s working to help trafficked people as part of the Men4Men End the Demand initiative.

The number of GED graduates at Milwaukee’s main test sites plummeted beginning in 2014, the year a new GED test — a computer-based exam that focuses on higher-order thinking — was adopted across the nation. Still, educators agree that the new test assesses the skills that are needed to succeed in today’s workplace, and the passing rate has improved — from 47 percent in 2014 to 72 percent in 2016.

Women of color in Milwaukee will be disproportionately harmed by a provision in the American Health Care Act ending Medicaid reimbursements for abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood. This could result in severely limited services such as gynecological exams, STD testing and treatment, and contraception.

Until she was 20, Tiferet Berenbaum, 34, had never seen a gynecologist. She had never had a Pap smear, or even heard of one.

Andrea Waxman

In spring 2013, the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service started an occasional series of stories about four graduating high school students who participated in a program that helps students from low-income families get into college and earn a degree. Four years later, they checked back to see how they are doing.

Jabril Faraj

Around dusk on a Thursday night in early August, a group of about 30 black men parade down the 4300 block of N. 25th Street in Garden Homes.

Jabril Faraj

Zahra Omar describes her aunt as a strong woman. But when she resisted armed Somali militants who had entered her home, they tied her up before one of the men shot and killed her.

“My daddy, too — he died like that,” said Omar, 25. “I’ve never seen my dad.”

WIDOCC

In the wee hours of the morning on July 1, 2015, Valencia Laws decided it was time to take a walk around Wilson Park. Her water had broken the night before and after eight hours of contractions she set off, accompanied by her husband and her doula, DeAnna Tharpe.

“There were people walking their dogs and I would have a contraction and have to stop,” she said. “They would be looking at me like ‘I don’t know if she’s supposed to be here.’”

But with Tharpe by her side, Laws knew she was exactly where she needed to be.

Sue Vliet

For Mary Ward, who worked as a prostitute on West Lincoln and West Greenfield avenues for decades, the scenario had played itself out a thousand times before. During her date, her pimp was to show up, deliver drugs, collect money and leave. But this time, things quickly broke badly, and in the end, Ward’s john would lay lifeless in the street with two bullet holes in his head. Faced with the decision of whether to stay or run away, Ward waited for police to arrive. That was the last day she used drugs or allowed someone to abuse her body.

“That was my do or die day,” Ward said.

Andrea Waxman

A new city law that will take effect on Oct. 28 prohibits panhandling on street medians narrower than 5 feet, or any highway ramp that might be dangerous for pedestrians. Panhandling itself is not illegal.

All 15 members of the council voted in favor of the measure, which the mayor signed into law Wednesday.

According to the ordinance, violators can be fined $50 to $200 plus court costs or imprisoned if unable to pay.

Jabril Faraj

Community organizations from across Milwaukee sent a clear, unified message to the Common Council at a recent Public Safety Committee hearing: more police will not be sufficient to reduce violence and crime in the city.

Jabril Faraj

Since Saturday night, Sherman Park has been roiled by protests that have, at times, turned violent in the wake of the police killing of Sylville K. Smith, a 23-year-old black man.

Residents have expressed pain over these events but many who were present in the area following the shooting said they understand why people are angry.

Sue Vliet

Jackie Burrell is looking forward to living in a new apartment after the entire western section of Westlawn, the state’s largest public housing development, is torn down and rebuilt. Burrell said her unit, which was built in the 1950s, sometimes floods when it rains and mold is an ongoing problem.

Sophia Boyd / Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

All Lismari Montes, 15, had to do was find the bottle of prescribed sleeping pills that were hidden in her parent’s room. “I’m done” was all she could think as she walked upstairs to her room, yearning for escape from her exhausting fight with depression.

Anger drove her to this point. She was angry at her family and herself. “I like to think of it as a snowball,” she said. “It went from this little tiny issue … to the point where I didn’t think [it] was worth living.”

Wyatt Massey

In a two-part series on the ongoing risk of lead poisoning in Milwaukee, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service reports on how diminished federal funding for lead-abatement efforts prompted the City to limit subsidies to six North Side ZIP codes, leaving owners of old homes in other neighborhoods scrambling for help. The series also looks at how Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers responds to elevated blood lead levels in children on the South Side. 

Photo by Allison Dikanovic / Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

The commercial sex trade industry works like any other market, with supply and demand. Experts say that a stronger emphasis on deterring people from purchasing sex in Milwaukee would address a root cause of the problem.

Martha Kuhlman looked down, feeling outside of her body. She saw herself climb into the backseat of a car in a body-hugging dress as a man promised to go get her money. Instead of cash, he returned with a knife in hand. Before tossing her out onto the curb, the man strangled the young woman until she lost consciousness.

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