One of America’s Poorest Cities

Milwaukee. Known for beer and brats. For our spectacular lakefront. For five Fortune 500 companies, including Northwestern Mutual and Harley-Davidson. Summer festivals. Fine museums. And . . .

. . . homelessness and poverty. Far too much of it.

When it comes to those living on the streets, we've got it bad.

It's worse than you think.

one in four picture 2.png

1 in 4 of our

neighbors lives in poverty.1



Every night, approximately


people endure life on

the streets of Milwaukee.2


Milwaukee is the third poorest big city in America, with a poverty rate of 25 percent. That’s more than 143,000 poor people in our city. Many are just one bad break away from joining the roughly 1,000 homeless folks on our streets — and some estimate the number may be twice that high. Over 13 percent of our workforce in Milwaukee is unemployed; for African-American men, that number is an astonishing 34 percent!

“I guess you can call us invisible,” David Baker, a homeless man, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I mean we’re there, but most of the time people don’t want to look at you. It’s better that they pretend that you don’t exist.”

Imagine spending a night on the streets in subzero weather. Or not knowing where your next meal is coming from.

What does homelessness look like?


Homeless men, women and children often find themselves living on the streets because of one or more unfortunate — and often unforeseen — circumstances. A sudden job loss. Eviction. Major medical issues. Domestic violence. Addictions to drugs and alcohol. Perhaps poor choices. Divorce, or death of a spouse. Severe mental illness. Veterans, many with PTSD. It could happen to any of us, or someone we love.

More often than not, you've walked by them – maybe trying not to notice them.

Children get the worst of it.


One third of Milwaukee’s children — 33 percent — live below the poverty line.3

That’s more than 50,000 kids going without some of life’s basic needs4, every single day. More than four out of five children (82%) in Milwaukee Public Schools are economically disadvantaged.5

Imagine if you didn't have the money to care for your child and you felt powerless to do anything about it.

Hope starts with a meal.


The gesture is simple enough: A plate of hot, nutritious food for a hungry person. But it can have lasting — even eternal — consequences. Jesus said that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or give a drink to the thirsty, we are, at times, doing those acts of kindness unto Him. What a thought! But even such simple deeds — a meal, a bed, a coat, or meeting any immediate need — really can be a first step to turning a life around. Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, sometimes a long one. But it has to start somewhere. And for a hungry person on the street, that’s often at our table.

$2.04 provides a meal and an opportunity for lasting change.

Each year, we provide ...








Items of Clothing




Nights of Shelter

Your support makes these critical services possible.

Lasting solutions. Lives restored.

No one chooses to be homeless. But many are so trapped by poor choices and addictions that it’s incredibly difficult to break free. We believe we have the solution, and it’s not even our idea. It’s God’s. Romans 12:1-2 is sort of a prescription for transformation, for truly turning a life around. Here’s how that passage reads in the NIV: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God . . . Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .” That’s the foundation of all that we do at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, particularly in our short- and long-term programs. Yes, we’re about modifying behavior and building better habits. But more so, we’re about changing hearts and souls, and pointing them to God, the One True Source of restoration and lasting change.


Safe Harbor

for men


Joy House

for women & children

Cross Trainers Academy

for at-risk youth

Change – true, lasting, life-transforming change – starts from the inside out.

Learn About Our Programs Read Stories of Hope

Further Resources

Following are a series of links to stories and sources from which we’ve drawn some of the information above and throughout our website, plus more links to information about poverty and homelessness in Milwaukee and beyond.