Soglin lashes out at county over homeless day shelter plans
Post by Emily Mills on 10/1/2012 12:22pm
Mayor Paul Soglin sent a scathing letter on Friday to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi about the county’s plans to locate a homeless day shelter within city limits.
Parisi announced on Wednesday that the county would be paying for a day shelter, possibly to be located on Wright St. on the city’s east side, and is partnering with Porchlight, Inc. to run it.
The County Board voted unanimously that evening to approve opening the shelter, though language was added allowing for locating the facility elsewhere if necessary after neighbor’s expressed concerns.
In his letter, Soglin lashed out at the process the county used in making the decision, accusing Parisi of bypassing the usual city vetting process in choosing the new site and noting that he has “grave” concerns about that location.
“I have made it clear that the City of Madison does not have the resources or the responsibility to take care of Dane County’s and Wisconsin’s homeless population,” Soglin wrote. “Even if we do not have to cover operating costs for a day shelter, the city will have to deal with the impact on neighbors and the costs associated with that impact.”
The mayor complained that the county had not consulted with any of the city’s professional staff prior to the announcement, something Soglin said private developers are required to do before locating a new use within the city.
“The city is always willing to work in a cooperative fashion with the county on this and many other issues,” he went on, “but a working relationship of that kind cannot develop if information is not shared in both directions.”
Read the full letter here.
Parisi counters Soglin’s accusations, however: "We've reached out to the mayor and asked for his input, but we haven't received any input other than: ship them out of Madison," he told WKOW.
The city had previously stated that no day shelter would be in place this winter, as had been the case last year when a warming house was set up in a former car dealership on East Washington Ave. There are currently fewer options for homeless people seeking shelter from colder weather, since the Central Library is still undergoing renovations and the Capitol basement has been closed off.
The city and county have been tangling over the issue of a new homeless shelter for some time, including at a meeting in August when Ald. Bridget Maniaci accused County Board members on a homelessness committee with her of trying to score political points against the city.
There are concerns, too, from homeless advocates about locating a shelter as far away from downtown as Wright St.
“They waited ‘til the last minute, they hand-picked a provider without asking for proposals and didn’t even try to get input on siting the warming center – which is five miles from the capital!” writes Brenda Konkel, former alder and current executive director of the Tenant Resource Center.
According to Parisi spokeswoman Casey Becker, though, the mayor’s counterproposal isn’t much better: "The response from the mayor's office was for the county to evaluate bussing homeless people outside of Madison to other communities," she told the Wisconsin State Journal.
In the meantime, homeless people and their advocates held a rally on Saturday to emphasize the dire need of not only a warming shelter in Madison, but an overnight shelter as well. Services are too spread out around town to be truly useful for the homeless, and some of the services that do exist are poorly managed, they contend.
“A building that could be used for a 365-day a year homeless facility, with all of the services and 24-hour a day. Not to give people a free place to live forever, but have social services provided there, have job searches provided there,” says Allen Barkoff, rally organizer. “Those services, if they exist, are scattered all over the area.”
Emily Mills is Editor-At-Large for Dane101, as well as Editor of Our Lives Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, actor, and musician (drummer and singer in local band Little Red Wolf). Originally from several states up and down the Midwest Emily has called Madison home since 2000. Contact her at
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