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Milwaukee, WI 53201
The demand for emergency services to help meet families' basic needs increased markedly in Milwaukee County between 1995 and 2000. This study used administrative data to track requests for and use of emergency services in three basic needs areas: food security, housing and medical care. The increased demand happened during a time of unprecedented economic prosperity and sweeping welfare reform measures. Interviews with fifteen program administrators and a survey of Milwaukee area congregations that provide services to help families make ends meet link increased use of private emergency services programs to changes in the public safety net that were implemented as part of W-2. This evidence suggests that the W-2 caseload is no longer an accurate reflection of need in the community. It is clear from this research that the ability of low-income families to meet basic needs has been hampered by recent changes to the welfare system. Improving their well-being will require government to reclaim responsibility for maintaining a safety net for families in crisis.
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