Working Towards Financial Literacy

Housing Equity in Milwaukee + 200 Nights of Freedom Initiative

On September 27, 2017 Milwaukee County Extension Family Living Educator, Lilliann Paine, attended “50 Year Ache: How Far Has Milwaukee Come Since the 1967 Civil Rights Marches?” This event was part of the 200 Nights of Freedom initiative.  This initiative takes inspiration from the original timeline and spirit of Milwaukee’s Open Housing Marches. Beginning on August 28, 1967, the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council/Commandos, Father James Groppi, Alderperson Vel Phillips and a host of activists and community members marched for over 200 consecutive nights to demand an end to housing segregation. The marches signified Milwaukee’s contribution to the Black Freedom Movement in America and helped inspire federal fair housing legislation. This moment was the pinnacle of civil rights activism in Milwaukee. The 50 Year Ache was a panel discussion on housing and segregation in Milwaukee then (1967) and now (2017). Panel members discussed that not enough has changed.


What Changes Are Needed: Housing Equity + Education + Residence

For Milwaukee County residents to achieve equitable participation in the economy, it is necessary to provide opportunities for families to build financial ability.  This means our residents need to have basic finance knowledge, practice financial skills and access financial products. In order to get families on the path toward saving and building assets, we need to make sure they know how to find the on-ramps to this process. And this must be done in ways that are relevant and doable. Any programming provided must understand what is going on in people’s lives to be useful.


How Does UW Extension Help?

Through Family Living Education, UW Extension is tasked with strengthening the financial capabilities of the Milwaukee community. UW Extension is offering customized programming in the areas of: financial literacy, financial coaching, and successful renting for youth and families.

Rent Smart is UW Extension curriculum that focuses on the knowledge and skills essential for a successful renting experience. It challenges participants to know and understand their rights and responsibilities as a tenant, as well as know and understand the rights and responsibilities of their landlord. Emphasis is placed on forming a strong partnership between the tenant and landlord. Establishing a positive rental history is much like having a positive credit report and Rent Smart starts participants on the right path for success.

Family Living Educator Lilliann Paine provides a training of the trainer model to teach curriculum around the following areas:

  • Developing executive function (basic skills and attitudes towards money)
  • Building healthy money habits and values
  • Practicing money skills and decision making


Invitation to Action:

We must do a better job of working towards making housing, transportation and workforce development to be racially equitable. Our current strategies and relationships must be multi-racial or cross sector.  Many racial inequities occur without intention or malice. In order to track progress, we have to identify achievable and measurable disparity reduction targets.  We can improve access when we consider the needs of underrepresented and under resourced communities.

For more information on how you can take action, visit March on Milwaukee 50th website or find them on Facebook.

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