Affordable housing apartment unit opens on La Crosse’s north side

When Joann Williams Harris cut the ribbon on her new apartment, it meant she finally found a place she could call home.

“It’s just been a breath of fresh air.”

And her favorite thing about the apartment is the kitchen.

“You know I have the little gadgets I can use to make those one pot wonders.”

Joann fell in love with cooking as a kid growing up in Chicago. And she continued with her passion as a cook in the Navy.

“That was a picture of me in Italy, that was taken in 94.”

After the navy, Joann enrolled in culinary school, but PTSD from military sexual trauma led Joann down a dark path.

“I received a five-day notice, my income decreased, so I wasn’t able to afford to live there anymore, so I became homeless. Due to homelessness I had to drop out.”

Joann relocated to Tomah to receive help for her PTSD, and while there, she was notified of a new building in La Crosse that had rooms for homeless veterans.

“They said to us ‘we have this issue, we have this problem. We need a company to help us clear up the issue that they’re having with their homelessness,” said Angie Livingstone of Impact 7, the non-profit development company behind Garden Terrace. They responded to a request from the city, looking establish more affordable housing options in La Crosse.

With help from a federal block grant, they were able to get to work.

“We think it’s important for all income levels to have a nice place to live.”

Joann loves her apartment, but her past keeps her from fully moving in.

“It’s a little why I’m taking my time unpacking, I’m waiting for that hammer to fall. And someone to say “something happened along the line you gotta go, but I’m praying every day that it doesn’t happen. I just pray every night and day, that this is real.”

But with help from the community garden across the street, Joann is feeling more at home with her first love cooking.

“I think we’re going to go ahead and try to do the Zucchini tonight, we grabbed some zucchini, but we haven’t cooked it as yet. So maybe I’ll do some zucchini tonight, go along with some chicken breast tenders, yeah. That sounds good.”

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