From banning panhandlers downtown to providing a new daytime warming shelter this winter, the city of Madison has been busy this semester combating the problems homelessness brings into the city.
Madison’s City Council passed an ordinance to completely ban panhandling in the downtown area in mid-September. Two months later, city officials are calling the ordinance a success.
The ordinance received some backlash from the American Civil Liberties Union, who said it is unconstitutional and bans a form of speech. Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the city is confident the ordinance is legal and constitutional.
The city also announced a proposal in September to place discontinued parking meters on State Street as a place for donation in hopes to fill in the monetary gap that banning panhandlers created.
In an effort to keep the homeless safe as the weather gets colder, in late September, Dane County planned to partner with Porchlight and Domestic Abuse Intervention Services to create a daytime center to provide the homeless with warmth. The center eventually opened its doors Nov. 26 and will stay open until the end of March 2013 on East Washington Avenue.
The county currently spends $1.5 million on homelessness.
The center will have social workers on staff from Porchlight to help the homeless find employment or housing and will provide computers for them to fill out job and housing applications.
This decision sparked some criticism from Mayor Paul Soglin and nearby businesses. Soglin said there are better locations for the shelter, and he added opening new shelters does not address the substance abuse and mental illness problems that many homeless people face. Overall, he said, the city is in support of the shelter.
In the Dane County capital budget, $600,000 was set aside to buy a property for a permanent day resource center in the downtown area.