The Dane County Board of Supervisors announced an initiative Friday to help the county’s homeless population with a proposed year-round day shelter and affordable apartment housing.
Sup. Heidi Wegleitner, District 2, said the initiative is made up of amendments to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi’s 2012 county budget. She said the county board and County Budget Committee will discuss the proposed amendments for the coming weeks and a decision will be made before Thanksgiving.
Wegleitner said at Thursday’s county board meeting, the board authorized the county to enter into a lease for a temporary day shelter for winter. The temporary day shelter, which is part of County Executive Joe Parisi’s budget, will potentially be located on 827 East Washington Avenue, but has not been finalized, she said.
She said she thinks the temporary day shelter will provide the homeless a place to keep warm, take showers, have personal storage lockers and use the bathroom. She said it might provide computers, laundry and support services as well.
The temporary day shelter was originally supposed to open Nov. 1, but has been pushed back until Dec. 1, Wegleitner said.
Wegleitner said she also introduced an amendment that would create a permanent day resource center in addition to the temporary day shelter. It would include the same services as the temporary day shelter, but would also provide telephones, mail service, support groups, book clubs and additional programming.
“[The resource center would be] a one stop shop where they can go during the day to improve their lives and improve stability,” Wegleitner said. “It will make it easier to bring services to the people and make their lives easier.”
She said the permanent day resource center would cost $600,000 to open and an additional $150,000 a year to operate. Wegleitner said the money to fund the proposed initiatives will come from the county budget and capital borrowing.
Supervisor Carousel Bayrd, second vice-chair of the county board, said she introduced an amendment to build permanent, affordable single occupancy housing for the homeless population. The amendment would cost the city $1.7 million over a two year period, she said.
Bayrd said there is a huge need for low-income housing in Madison. The vacancy rate is low, which makes it difficult to find affordable housing, she said.
Her proposed amendment to build affordable housing will be advantageous for both the county and the homeless, Bayrd said. She said it is fiscally responsible because it will save money in the long run by reducing social services that have to be paid and will also keep the homeless off the streets.
Bayrd said this is just the beginning of solving the homeless shortage problem, but single occupancy housing is not a solution for families or people with more needs.
“This is just a piece of the housing needs we have in Dane County,” Bayrd said. “It’s just a piece of the puzzle.”
Bayrd said vacancy rates are so low because foreclosures cause former homeowners to rent, so it becomes more difficult for them to have an apartment.
The next county board meeting is Nov. 15, where the board will further deliberate the proposed amendments.