Dane County’s plans to open a new daytime homeless shelter on Madison’s east side has sparked criticism from the mayor and other city officials.
According to a Dane County statement, County Executive Joe Parisi announced the opening of a new daytime homeless shelter on Wright Street. The shelter will serve as a place where the homeless can come to stay warm during the winter months, as well as an emergency reprieve for victims of domestic violence.
Parisi said the county is currently looking at a number of different locations for the shelter in addition to Wright Street.
The statement said the county currently spends $1.5 million to address homelessness. The proposed shelter currently comes with a pricetag of an estimated $50,000.
The county will partner with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), an organization that provides assistance to victims of domestic violence, and Porchlight Inc., an organization that serves homeless people.
Parisi said there is currently nowhere for the homeless to go during the day, and the county hopes to address that problem by providing a warm space individuals can turn to in the winter.
Mayor Paul Soglin said the new shelter does not address any of the underlying issues regarding homelessness, including mental illness and substance abuse.
According to Soglin, a PBS study discovered 60 percent of homeless people suffer from substance abuse and or mental illness. He said a significant number of homeless people are in need of counseling, substance abuse treatment and assistance with mental illness issues.
“Simply opening up shelters just fills up shelters and creates the need for more shelters,” Soglin said. “It can’t continue.”
The location of the new daytime homeless shelter is one of Soglin’s main problems with the initiative. He said there are better locations in Sun Prairie, Middleton or different parts of Madison.
Soglin added permanent housing is needed to turn around the lives of the homeless.
“Day shelters and overnight shelters are not a solution to the homeless problem,” he said. “Permanent housing is the solution.”
Parisi said he is confident he and Soglin will able to work out their disagreements and find a solution that could address the needs of the homeless population but also be sensitive to the needs of the city.
Ald. Larry Palm, District 15, said he supports the county’s initiative to provide services to the homeless but does not know if Wright Street is the best or most logical location.
Palm said there was a lack of communication between Parisi and his constituents, adding Parisi should take into consideration how the daytime shelter will affect citizens and whether they can be involved in the decision-making process.
“They jumped to conclusions, [without giving] an introduction,” Palm said. “Other than the county executive, no one is championing the new shelter.”
The city will hold a neighborhood meeting on Oct. 10 at the Madison East Community Center to discuss the daytime shelter. He said he expects many people to come and share their opinion.
Parisi said he hopes the daytime shelter will be up and running by November 2012. He added county staff will look at different operations and is currently communicating with the city on the issue.
Camille Albert contributed to this article.