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Homeless Outreach and Supportive Housing

From Crisis to Independence

All too often, people experiencing homelessness or a mental health crisis end up in the back of a squad car on the way to jail or a hospital emergency room. These outcomes can be both traumatic and costly, but there are better alternatives. Since we know a high percentage of those who are homeless are also living with mental illness, Community Advocates dedicates behavioral health staff to working with these individuals exclusively. 

Our Homeless Outreach Nursing Center, Autumn West Safe Haven, and Project Bridge provide services and resources that address the unique needs of those living with a mental illness in unstable living conditions. We utilize the Housing First philosophy that views housing as an individual's first step toward regaining independence and stability.

Community Advocates is a proud member of Housing First Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Continuum of Care.

Homeless Outreach Nursing Center

Our Homeless Outreach Nursing Center provides person-centered outreach and engagement to individuals with mental illness who are chronically homeless and living on the streets, in vacant buildings, under bridges, or in parks. Clients are assessed by nurse and social worker advocates and are provided services to assist them in stabilizing their mental and physical health and homelessness. Those who qualify may be referred to the Autumn West Safe Haven.

Our outreach team is unique in Milwaukee in that all are clinicians and licensed to diagnose and treat mental illness. 

In 2016, Community Advocates Homeless Outreach Nursing Center staff made 1,660 contacts with homeless individuals. They also provided case management services to 40 formerly homeless clients who are in permanent supportive housing as part of the Housing First initiative.

Read more about the Homeless Outreach Nursing Center's work in this Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service article.

Homeless Outreach Nursing Center Staff at Autumn West

Autumn West Safe Haven

Autumn West Safe Haven is a low-barrier housing refuge for individuals who are chronically homeless and experiencing severe and persistent mental health challenges. This program is an alternative to emergency shelter and designed to provide safe, short-term housing along with supportive services, including peer support, for residents as they transition out of homelessness. Autumn West embraces Housing First and Harm Reduction principles. Its 20 apartment units in the heart of the city are a safe haven for those needing support as they find permanent homes.

Of the 58 individuals served by Autumn West in 2016, 78% were off the streets and safely housed at the end of the year.

In this video, Autumn West Safe Haven Program Manger Carrie Burkham explains what Autumn West is all about.

Project Bridge

The Project Bridge/Autumn West Housing Program helps those experiencing both chronic homelessness and mental illness. Founded in 2007, this Housing First program provides immediate access to safe and affordable housing to 120 Milwaukee residents who have been identified as experiencing chronic homelessness and living with a disability. This program provides case management services that employ up-to-date best practices such as Trauma-Informed Care, Motivational Interviewing, and Harm Reduction to help program participants achieve housing stability. The average length of stay for residents currently in programming is four years and eight months.

Community Advocates home visit Project Bridge

Bob's Story

When Bob was living on the streets, he said people were afraid of him. "But the case managers for Community Advocates aren't afraid. They're not afraid to open their hearts to the clients." 

Frequently Asked Questions about Our Homeless Outreach and Supportive Housing

  • Q: Who should I contact to refer someone to Autumn West Safe Haven?

    A: You may contact Autumn West at 414-671-6337.

  • Q: What are the referral criteria for the Autumn West Safe Haven?

    A: A person being referred must meet the following three criteria:

    1) he/she must be at least 18 years of age
    2) he/she must have a mental illness
    3) he/she must meet the HUD definition of chronic homelessness.

    Autumn West Safe Haven is primarily for individuals who are living outside or places not meant for human habitation.

    Referrals must also be assessed by an Outreach Nurse or Social Worker from the Homeless Outreach Nursing Center. Individuals may self-refer, or they may be referred by a third party professional.

  • Q: Who should I contact to refer someone to Project Bridge Program?

    A: You may contact Community Advocates at 414-449-4777. This program maintains a waiting list. Because the program's emphasis on client stability leads to low turnover in caseload, Project Bridge is often unable to accept new referrals.

  • Q: What are the referral criteria for Project Bridge?

    A: A person being referred must meet the following three criteria:

    1) he/she must be at least 18 years of age
    2) he/she must have a medically verifiable disability
    3) he/she must meet the HUD definition of being chronically homeless.

    A referral from an active third-party provider is necessary. This program maintains a waiting list. Because the program's emphasis on client stability leads to low turnover in caseload, Project Bridge is often unable to accept new referrals.