Poverty in Milwaukee

The War on Poverty

“It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won.”
State of the Union address, Jan. 8, 1964

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared unconditional war on poverty. The bold initiative created several landmark safety-net programs and legislation, including food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid and the Fair Housing Act.

During this year, the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service will examine successful and failed public policies intended to address poverty in our city. We will also put a face on poverty by taking a look at those who struggle to make ends meet in Milwaukee.

Job Corps prepares young adults for realities of difficult job market
by Brendan O’Brien
Job Corps, a federal program created 50 years ago as part of the War on Poverty, attempts to pull economically disadvantaged youth and young adults out of poverty.

Medical examiner brings closure to families of deceased homeless people
by Brendan O’Brien
The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office investigates about 40 cases a year of unidentified and unclaimed bodies, many of whom are homeless.


Unemployed men turn to online marketplace to find manual labor jobs
by Brendan O’Brien
Craigslist has become a virtual employment center for some Milwaukee men who place ads looking for odd jobs to do for strangers.

Visitors to weekly bed giveaway dream of comfortable place to sleep
by Brendan O’Brien
A community center called Adullam Outreach gives away donated mattresses, box springs and furniture on the city’s North Side.


Micro lawn-mowing businesses put food on table for poor laborers
by Brendan O’Brien
For a few dollars, landscapers mow lawns and clear brush for homeowners and small businesses.

Kids, parents pass on parks, playgrounds in favor of street hoops
by Brendan O’Brien
Makeshift basketball hoops and courts in the middle of city streets allow parents to keep a watchful eye on their children.


Teenage entrepreneurs sell water bottles to thirsty motorists
by Brendan O’Brien
Otis Lynn, 14, and his friends sell bottled water to passersby on the corner of Hadley and 35th streets in the Sherman Park neighborhood.

Street corner retailers sell wares to make ends meet
by Brendan O’Brien
Shaky Jake and his associates make a living by “buying from the rich to sell to the poor.”


Low-income car owners rely on street mechanics to remain mobile
by Brendan O’Brien
When cars break down or need maintenance, owners seek inexpensive labor and street mechanics make a living.

Corner stores fill need for convenience, companionship
by Brendan O’Brien
Milwaukee’s hundreds of corner stores are microcosms of their neighborhoods.


Milwaukee’s poor feel the pinch of food stamp cuts
by Brendan O’Brien
Experts and recipients say two cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are making it more difficult for people to eat healthy and make ends meet.

MPD outreach team helps care for, count the homeless
by Brendan O’Brien
The semi-annual count of homeless people helps city agencies that serve them get federal funding and glean a better understanding of the effectiveness of efforts to reduce homelessness.


Subzero temperatures leave hungry people out in the cold
by Rick Brown
As Milwaukee endured its coldest weather in nearly 20 years, some local food pantries and meal programs were forced to temporarily close, leaving some low-income residents without access to food.

Scrappers brave the elements trying to make ends meet
by Brendan O’Brien
Pushing strollers or grocery carts on foot, or loading flat bed trucks with discarded metal and cans, scrappers are part of Milwaukee’s bustling underground economy.