The Madison police and a member of the Bethel Lutheran Church helped a homeless man suffering from Huntington’s disease off the streets and into treatment in late October, shedding light on the struggles of the homeless living with chronic diseases.
The 40-year-old homeless man, whose name was changed to “Peter” to protect his identity, was found on the 100 block of State Street and brought into a facility to receive adequate care before the cold Madison winter set in, according to a Madison Police Department report.
Police spokesperson Joel DeSpain said Peter, who is now receiving the appropriate medication for the disease, was sent to a new facility that specializes in Huntington’s disease, where he can stay while professionals monitor his condition and care for him.
“Sometimes people get a slanted view of Madison if all they hear about is crime,” DeSpain said. “Actually, we are the fourth safest city in the state based on FBI statistics, and a lot of the work our officers do on the streets is proactive, particularly for people in crisis.”
Many people in this city are in need, and if someone has an illness like Huntington’s, they are not going to do very well out on the streets, DeSpain said. He said many members of the police force and Madison community alike were very concerned about Peter.
The homeless can also receive free health care under the state BadgerCare program, which provides free health insurance to individuals who have incomes 100 percent below the poverty line, he said.
According to Connor Wild of Bethel Homeless Ministries, a man named Mark from the ministries helped the police get Peter to the facility. Wild said Mark was familiar with Peter.
“Mark has been working with Peter for a long time and has developed a really close personal relationship with him,” Wild said. “This was a big moment for Mark to be able to get Peter into more stable circumstances.”
Wild said the people of the Bethel Homeless Ministry are happy Peter will be safer this winter and off the streets with Huntington’s.
Wild said in addition to helping Peter, the ministry helps many other homeless people as well. Wild said the ministry offers many services to help their homeless neighbors.
DeSpain said the police department makes an effort to help those people in need downtown.
“Particularly downtown we have a number of people who are homeless and may be in need of services,” DeSpain said. “We do monitor people down there and try to help them, but sometimes people don’t want to help themselves, which makes it difficult.”
DeSpain said the department’s goal is to ensure the safety of everyone and connect those in need with help. He said Peter really needed somewhere to go and receive long term help with his Huntington’s. He said in this case, that is exactly what the police helped to provide.
Local homeless advocate Brenda Konkel said in an email to The Badger Herald she is disappointed with the report the police released.
“I know the person and feel really uncomfortable with the information that the police department put out there about this situation and the legal status of what should and should not be said about this person,” Konkel said.
She said the police’s attempt to protect confidentiality for Peter was misguided because “it is really clear that everyone who is on State Street would know who this person is.”