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Granting Hope to Wisconsin's Hmong Community

Until the late 20th century, the world’s Hmong population mainly resided in the mountains of southern China, Laos, Thailand, and northern Vietnam. The Hmong experienced much oppression as Communism rose after World War II. In 1975, many Hmong migrated to the United States in hopes of greater safety; however, many still faced challenges in their new country. Wisconsin became home to one of the largest populations of Hmong people in the U.S. with an estimated 6,000 residing in the Chippewa Valley. To assist in the challenges of culture shock, language, educational resources, and employment opportunities that Hmong Americans in northwestern Wisconsin were facing, the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association (ECAHMAA), Inc. was founded in 1982.

One of the top challenges the Hmong population continues to face is obtaining housing. The ECAHMAA has been a provider of safe and affordable low-income housing since acquiring its first rental property in 1997. As of today, the agency owns one eight-plex, two duplexes, and three single-family homes which serve a total of 50 residents.

In order to continue providing safe, affordable housing to vulnerable residents with low- and extremely-low incomes, ECAHMAA sought annual financial support from the WHEDA Foundation’s Housing Grant Program. In 2021, ECAHMAA received a $50,000 grant to help fully renovate the inside of their eight-plex housing development located on the west side of Eau Claire. This eight-plex serves a total of 18 residents which predominately make up Hmong refugees and families. Residents of the development may also fall under one or more of the following categories: frail elderly, physically impaired or disabled, victim of domestic abuse, homeless family with children, or low-income. All residents have access to ECAHMAA’S bilingual Hmong Housing Liaison, the Food and Rice Pantry, youth and elderly programs, domestic violence and sexual assault services, and more.

The ECAHMAA was established as a non-profit organization funded by local, city, state, and federal grants as well as sponsor contributions. As the only agency in the Greater Chippewa Valley Area that specializes in providing services tailored to Hmong cultural and linguistic needs, ECAHMAA has provided Hmong Americans and other vulnerable populations with access to housing, health care, career and educational opportunities, and victim advocacy. ECAHMAA provides direct and referral services to approximately 1,384 individuals annually.

Since 1985, the WHEDA Foundation has administered the Housing Grant Program and is responsible for receiving and administering housing grant funds on behalf of the Authority. The Foundation is dedicated to enhancing housing and economic opportunity through supporting projects such as ECAHMAA’s renovated eight-plex to ensure all citizens throughout Wisconsin can realize their hopes and dreams.

Photo credit to True Vue, Executive Director of ECAHMAA.