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New Resource Center Opens Doors to Mitigate Affordable Housing Struggles

JONAH creates Eau Claire Tenant-Landlord Resource Center to educate and support community

Kelly Carlson, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

HOUSING HOPE. There is a new resource center for tenants and landlords.
HOUSING HOPE. Chelsea Hebert is program coordinator for the new Eau Claire Tenant-Landlord Resource Center.

Amidst a community growing its capacity for creativity, collaboration, and advancement, there is also a growing need to ensure its residents have homes.

Affordable housing has been a significant concern in the Chippewa Valley for more than a decade, and the issue has only been heightened by the rise of luxury apartments, increasing rent, and a vacancy rate that shrinks every day. (At just 3%, the City of Eau Claire’s rental vacancy rate currently sits at half the healthy rate set by the state). A 2017 Wisconsin Poverty Report charting the Eau Claire area’s poverty rate as second-worst in the state (behind only Milwaukee) and with 42% of Eau Claire households paying more than 50% of their income on rent according to United Way’s ALICE Report, mediation is needed now more than ever.

one eviction can change the trajectory of an individual or family’s life and multiple evictions in a community are destabilizing.


CO-DIRECTOR OF THE Eau Claire tenant-landlorD resource center

A branch of the local nonprofit organization JONAH (Joining Our Neighbors Advancing Hope), the Affordable Housing Task Force, has been working in the Valley for years to address the root causes of destabilization in our community. Now, after looking into tenant-landlord communication resources in other Wisconsin cities such as Madison, they’ve created the Eau Claire Tenant-Landlord Resource Center (ECTLRC) – the first resource of its kind available in the Valley.

“Since 2018, our Task Force has repeatedly been receiving emails/calls from residents who did not know their tenant rights, were being vacated out of their apartments, and contacting us late… They either had no place to go that they could afford or that would accept them with barriers,” said Susan Wolfgram, co-director of the new center. “We had listened to landlords in a listening session in 2019 and since... What would be most helpful to them would be to have someone to contact that could intervene early when there was a ‘tenant problem’ before it rapidly escalated to an eviction process.”

The Eau Claire Tenant-Landlord Resource Center aims to do just that.

“Our mission is to provide education, consultation, and mediation services that promote positive relations between renters and housing providers,” Wolfgram explained. Services at the resource center include mediation (Wolfgram is a certified mediator through UW-Madison), housing consultations and navigation help, support for tenants in filling out applications and lease consulting, peer mentorships, legal assistance, and advocacy.

Currently, the center’s office is inside Grace Lutheran Church (202 W. Grand Ave.) by appointment only, via their website. They will also be available two days per week at Sojourner House (618 S. Barstow St.). Chelsea Hebert serves as program coordinator.

“My hope in this position is to guide the community to better understand all sides of the housing issues we’re facing, working from a place of empathy for both the people seeking homes and for those providing them,” Hebert said when she was hired in May. “From listening to a frustrated tenant, hearing them out and empowering them to know their rights, to doing the same for a landlord. I look forward to our being a resource hub, providing education and training, and also suggesting mediation where appropriate to find a solution that will not end in an eviction process. Evictions hurt all of us.”

JONAH also hosts monthly issue and action nights, with this month featuring the Eau Claire Tenant-Landlord Resource Center on Tuesday, Sept. 26, from 6-8pm at Grace Lutheran Church. This resource is for anyone in need of guidance in any housing capacity, whether they are a landlord or a tenant.

“One eviction can change the trajectory of an individual or a family’s life, and multiple evictions in a community are destabilizing,” Wolfgram explained. “Housing for our workforce is economic development and good for business because a home is where a job goes to sleep at night.”

In Matthew Desmond’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City – which examines the issue in Milwaukee – encapsulates the housing challenge in a message simple and true, impacting all housing efforts: “Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this county. The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”

Learn more about the Eau Claire Tenant-Landlord Resource Center’s schedule, resources, and stay up to date on hours online. Call the center at (715) 529-2918.