Bria Burris refused to give up.
Struggling to make ends meet, the mother of two stayed with friends because of housing struggles.
Close to the breaking point, the MATC student thought she would have to give up school to work more so she could take care of her children.
But she found out about the FAST Fund, an emergency fund for MATC students. The fund provided Burris, 30, with the financial and personal support she needed to finish school and get her degree.
The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors recently approved a proposal from Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson to allocate $35,000 to the MATC FAST Fund to help students avoid eviction and maintain housing stability while they earn their degree. FAST stands for Faculty and Students Together.
Nicholson said she learned that students were having a hard time accessing rental assistance programs through the city.
“This is a relatively small expenditure for the county, but it will provide a lifetime of benefit to the students we help,” she said. “We can ensure these MATC students stay focused on school, graduate and become successful.”
The FAST fund started in 2016 with the basic premise that students are less likely to succeed while facing economic traumas.
“When you’re hungry, you’re not thinking about school,” said Michael Rosen, the director of the FAST Fund. “If we can help students overcome economic obstacles, they can focus on school and hopefully become productive members of our community.”
The FAST Fund helps students with housing and school-related expenses, including providing food and gas cards.
The FAST Fund’s volunteer staff also works with students on getting jobs and preparing for the future.
Burris said the staff has helped her in many ways.
Burris had a felony on her record from when she was 19. This caused problems when she tried to find housing and work. With assistance from the FAST fund, she was able to get a lawyer who helped her get the felony expunged.
“Them helping me get my record expunged was greater than any financial help they could’ve provided,” Burris said.
With the help of the FAST Fund staff, Burris is now employed at the Social Development Commission, working with people who face struggles similar to hers in the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program.
Rosen said the county’s contribution will allow the program to meet more needs.
“With this pot of money being specifically for students facing housing insecurity, we can use our raised money in other ways,” he said. “Now we can provide more resources for books, laptops, food cards and gas cards.”