Complaint sites institutional bias and continued disparate treatment against people of color, precariously housed and limited English proficient in need of services in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE– On Monday, October 31, Sherrie Tussler, Executive Director of Hunger Task Force, presented from the former site of the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the historic home for basic needs care, the Marcia P. Coggs Building. There, she provided verbal and pictorial testimony that the State has and continues to actively discriminate against Milwaukee County residents that are people of color, precariously housed, limited English proficient and elderly, blind and disabled. She also underscored that these Milwaukee County residents are equal citizens, and disparate treatment and limiting access to federal entitlements will not be tolerated by the people of Milwaukee County.
The Coggs Center closed its doors without notice to families and individuals receiving or needing services on Monday, October 31. On November 1, 2022, the Coggs Building is set to reopen in a new location across town–eight miles north– at 6055 N. 64th Street, with abysmal access to the building for people using MCTS, disabled or elderly and uninviting prison fencing around the building.
Milwaukee County is home to 40% of the population of people of color in Wisconsin. The State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services provides unequal and disparate treatment to applicants for federal food and health care benefits.
“The intentionally disparate treatment of Milwaukee demonstrated by the careless actions of State employees who deny and delay help as a matter of business practice is not just careless, but discriminatory,” said Sherrie Tussler, Executive Director, Hunger Task Force. “Harming people based upon their race or status through intentional public policy is not acceptable for the people of Milwaukee.”
Hunger Task Force filed a Civil Rights Complaint alleging racism and discrimination as well as disparate treatment to the citizens of Milwaukee in August 2021 when the State Office Building was the only office that remained shuttered post mask mandate. During that time, over 200,000 households were without power and were denied in-person help to obtain emergency food benefits. In October 2021, Hunger Task Force filed a retaliation complaint when DHS directed staff from Hunger Task Force not to enter the public building and offer help.
Tussler ended the press conference by saying, “Today is a shameful day in Wisconsin’s history. The State is leaving Milwaukee’s residents to fend for themselves, and this is no accident. This is willful bad public policy, and the people of Milwaukee will not tolerate the shame.”
Hunger Task Force is Milwaukee’s Free & Local food bank and Wisconsin’s leading anti-hunger organization. The organization’s mission is to feed people in need today and end future hunger. Hunger Task Force operates a food bank that provides healthy food absolutely free of charge across Wisconsin. As advocates, Hunger Task Force works to end hunger through strong public policy work, legislative analysis, education and community organizing. For more information, visit HungerTaskForce.org.