The WHEDA Foundation Housing Grant program, launched in 1985, sought to extend WHEDA’s housing mission even further. By providing aid for permanent and emergency shelters, WHEDA became the first housing authority in the nation to administer such a program.
However, the existence of the program relies on impassioned individuals who are willing to apply and utilize its services. In Milwaukee, Ms. Joyce Henry was among the first of these individuals when she purchased a home in the King Park Neighborhood after she saw the mistreatment of many of the neighborhood’s residents. With the creation of The Open Gate in 1985, Henry took in young African American men, providing them housing while they rebuilt their lives. Due to countless years of marginalization, many of these men had difficulty finding steady and supportive work, making connections to community pillars, or even finding a place to rest their head.
To fund the creation of The Open Gate, Ms. Henry applied for the WHEDAF housing grant twice between the years 1985-86, receiving a total of $45,000 in aid. Supporting all manners of youth, Henry accepted those with medical health difficulties, criminal histories, and other cases that were deemed a lost cause by other social services. By providing a home to those who were told they would have none, Ms. Henry became more than just a supporter for the King Park community.
By setting direct goals and creating interpersonal systems of support, Ms. Henry sought to address the aftermath of years of marginalization in the hopes that these young men could recognize their capacity to shape their future. Thanks to Henry’s years of dedication and participation with WHEDA’s grant programs, the Open Gate can provide a space for youth to healthily navigate a successful path for the future.