Since Phyllis Wilson retired from her job at Milwaukee Public Schools, she has fallen behind in maintaining her 130-year-old home in the Harambee area.

First, she started noticing problems with her roof. Then, she became concerned about the plumbing.

With cold weather approaching, Wilson said that she would like an expert to look at her roof and plumbing because she is concerned about leaks. Since her mother is having similar problems in her house, Wilson set out to get information.

That’s when she heard about Milwaukee’s Housing Resource Fair.

Wilson, who is retired, said that it can be difficult to find information about affordable home repairs, so the fair came in handy.

“We got a lot of calls for people in need of housing assistance,” Ald. Milele Coggs said about starting the housing fair with Ald. Russell Stamper. “We came up with the idea of a fair to help get information out. This is our sixth year doing it.”

Held at North Division High School, the fair provides information through co-sponsors and vendors such as the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation (NIDC), Heal the Hood, Running Rebels, Safe & Sound and the Sherman Park Community Association.

Coggs said that the fair also offers three workshops: resources for the elderly, resources for home repairs and information on buying city property.

Lelah Huntley, operations manager at Walnut Way Conservation Corp., said that Lindsay Heights has been reaping the rewards of homeowners receiving useful housing information and fixing up their homes.

Nicole Franklin, a homeowner and community engagement coordinator at COA Youth and Family Centers, has attended the fair seeking information and as a vendor in years past. “I have been to many fairs like this,” Franklin said. “People that are here often advocate for themselves and for other people to ensure everyone has the information they need.”

However, Franklin questioned the timing of the fair. “A lot of the application processes for insurance and other programs don’t start until January,” Franklin said. “So, a lot of people will get really good information and then forget about it.”

Damon Shoates, site supervisor at Running Rebels, said that the group chose to have a table at the fair to support the neighborhood.

“We have been able to do a lot of cross-promotion,” Shoates said. “If we do not have what one person is looking for, we can direct them to a table that does.”

Like Franklin, Shoates has attended the fair as both a vendor and participant. This year, Shoates obtained information about loans and programs to find housing in Milwaukee. He said it is helpful to have the vendors all in one place.

Wilson, who visited the fair in search of information about loans, as well as plumbing and roofing repair, discovered various vendors to help with repairs.

Based on the information she received at the housing resource fair, Wilson plans to apply for housing repair loans for her and her mother. She then hopes to get her roof fixed and hire an expert to look at the plumbing in her home.

“It is good for people to get out and see what programs are available,” Wilson said.

Clara Hatcher

Originally published on the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service as Housing Resource Fair offers information on affordable home repairs