The Hub Offers Critical Resource for Formerly Homeless Individuals
new housing options offers affordable rent, living quarters for those looking to get back on their feet
For Becky Piper, approaching the complex issue of homelessness starts with a conversation.
When she started as the homelessness services coordinator for Chippewa County seven years ago, the job description was vague – basically only conveying a desire to help people – but she took her passion and heart for the role, rolled back her sleeves, and started digging for resources to improve the issue of homelessness in the area.
"Being here, it’s just doing life together... At night, I go out and water my plants, and that’s when I’ll sit on porches and connect with them. I’m intentional about meeting them where they’re at to find out how life is going… It’s very organic, but it’s very real. It’s a community."
founder of The Hub
“I’m wired that way,” Piper said. “I love people.”
In addition to her work with the Chippewa Valley Housing Authority, the nonprofit 513 Free, and the Hope Village Tiny House program, Piper is active in her church, dedicated to connecting resources to those in need. And, after years of working firsthand with people experiencing crisis, she saw a need in the community for more transition services.
Friend and colleague Mike Howard found the perfect opportunity to fill that need after driving past the Northwoods Motel. After driving back and forth, hemming and hawing, he decided to go in and ask whether the owners would be willing to sell their property for their purpose. After a single night, the owners agreed.
Since April 26, 2020, The Hub has provided those experiencing homeless – but not in crisis – a place to get back on their feet, save money, and get a game plan together for their next steps.
“Being here, it’s just doing life together,” Piper said. “At night, I go out and water my plants, and that’s when I’ll sit on porches and connect with them. I’m intentional about meeting them where they’re at to find out how life is going… It’s very organic, but it’s very real. It’s a community.”
The motel-turned-housing option features army barracks from Fort McCoy in Sparta, Wisconsin that have been repurposed into small homes that run for a rent starting at $100. Each home varies in size – from a single room to a larger home with a kitchenette, closets, and room to spare.
“When they’ve worked so hard to come out of the chaos of being out on the streets and being in stressful situations, they’re ready for a breather,” she said. “This is meant to be a safe place where they can do that. Where it’s quiet. Where it’s calm.”
Many of the individuals currently utilizing The Hub are families that are actively working, saving money, but who may not be able to get an approval on an apartment. It’s an issue exacerbated by limited affordable housing in the area, a brutally competitive housing market, and the CDC’s moratorium on evictions amid pandemic times concluding on July 31. Demand for resources like The Hub has already skyrocketed in recent years, Piper said, as she has had a waitlist for people who need to utilize The Hub since it opened last year.
In the next six months, Piper wants to connect with property managers with multi-plex properties to allow people moving out of The Hub to an official leasing property to have a familiar face to act as a liaison between property managers and tenants to help transition individuals into more permanent – and stable – living conditions.