In response to last Thursday’s ban that prevents homeless people from loitering outside the City-County Building, some Dane County supervisors are advocating instead for other solutions to decrease homelessness in Madison.
With a letter to the City-County Liaison Committee Monday, 12 supervisors are fighting against the ban.
Local leaders gather to speak against banning homeless from city buildingsLeaders of the religious community in Madison gathered on the steps of the City County Building Thursday to condemn new legislation Read…
Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, District 2, said she was motivated to write and send the letter because she did not like that the County Board had only one month to deliberate such a large issue. Her main concern was that not all homeless people living outside the City-County Building would have space to relocate in to local homeless shelters.
“Raising attention to this issue that there aren’t legal, safe places [for homeless people] to go is really important for the city and the county to know about,” Wegleitner said. “At least [this is] shining a light on the people that are falling through the cracks. It’s important to get them help, … support and legal places to go.”
The supervisors sent the letter Oct. 2 after Wegleitner collected signatures at the County Board meeting Oct. 1. She also forwarded the letter to the entire County Board, City Council, Mayor Soglin and the County Executive’s Office.
Supervisor Mary Kolar, District 1, co-chair of the City-County Liaison Committee, said the 12 supervisors who signed the letter make up only one-third of the Board of Supervisors.
Kolar said she responded personally to the letter, responding to the entire County Board.
Kolar said many supervisors want to solve the homelessness issue in Madison, but as it applies to the City-County Building, she said many people — those who work at the building and those who use it as a shelter alike — complained about the growing issues of biological hazards there. People were being exposed to feces, urine and drugs, which was becoming a problem for everyone, she said.
“What I emphasized and what influenced my vote is [that it was] not a safe place,” Kolar said.
But Supervisor Leland Pan, District 2, said banning homeless people from outside the City-County Building is not a viable solution to the city’s homelessness issue. He said if homeless people do end up staying at the City-County Building and get fined $400, they most likely would not be able to pay it and would get caught up in the criminal justice system, worsening their chances of finding housing.
The homelessness issue would come to a head whether or not the committee removes the ban, Pan said. He said the solution should come from connecting the homeless with services that can help them.
“It’s not like many people choose to be homeless,” Pan said. “Some become homeless because of economic deprivation, because they lost their homes, they lost their jobs — in those instances, what are we doing to help people connect to jobs, … to support affordable housing … to help connect people to the mental health services that they need?”
As a different response to this new legislation, some homeless advocates are calling for homeless individuals to be able to sleep at the former site of the St. Raphael’s Cathedral.
The number of places for homeless individuals to sleep outside are dwindling, Brenda Konkel, an advocate for the homeless, said. This was one of the last places that seemed like a viable option, she said.
After the first night that homeless individuals camped out on the parish property, several “No Trespassing” signs were put up in the area, Konkel said.