In an effort to expand affordable housing for low-income families in Madison, the Dane County Board approved a resolution Thursday to allow for the redevelopment of a county-owned property.
The creation of new housing at this location, according to the resolution, will allow for Dane County to achieve its goal of ending family homelessness in the area.
Dane county originally purchased the property at 1326 East Washington Ave. for use as a day resource center for homeless people, according to the resolution.
Later on, the county purchased a property closer to the homeless shelter and services, which prompted the consideration redeveloping the first property to address the needs of low-income families in the area.
Madison resident Sheray Wallace spoke to the board regarding her experience in Madison dealing with homeless families. She said in her neighborhood alone, there are 50 to 100 homeless people.
Supporting the resolution is something positive since it may help keep homeless children from living in cars, Wallace said.
“If a vote can change a life and save a kid, then I believe that this is something positive,” Wallace said. “Families will be stable and kids will be able to go to school and get their education — they don’t have to worry about where they’re going to eat or sleep.”
Having lived in Madison since 1999, Wallace said she has never seen the issue of homelessness as prevalent as it is now.
County Supervisor Carousel Bayrd, District 8, said she recently attended a city education committee meeting where there was a presentation about the growing homelessness of students in Madison public schools. The number of homeless families is under-documented because they do not go to shelters, she added.
“Homeless families aren’t living on the streets,” Bayrd said. “They’re living in their cars, they’re staying in unsafe housing, unsafe domestic-violence situations, staying with violent partners, staying with violent relatives … living in unsafe spaces because they don’t want their children sleeping on the streets.”
Supervisor Michael Willett, District 32, said he was concerned with passing the resolution because he did not understand where the funds for the redevelopment would come from.
But the resolution itself does not commit funds, Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, District 2, said. It currently focuses on the process of finding development proposals so the redevelopment can move forward.
The resolution is an opportunity to help address racial disparities in the community, Supervisor Jenni Dye, District 33, said. She said she wonders how people can expect students to learn and achieve when they are faced with the problem of being homeless, which she attributes to the overall achievement gap.
The Madison community has consistently advocated for affordable housing in many areas the city has been developing, Wegleitner said. She said she has reached out to several neighborhoods regarding the proposal and received positive feedback from them.
“I think that’s really awesome that neighborhoods are being so intentionable about wanting to be inclusive and wanting to have affordable housing and advocating for that,” Wegleitner said.
In addition to expanding housing opportunities for low-income families, the board also passed two opinion resolutions regarding President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration. The first re-articulated the county’s policy that protects individuals by not asking them about their immigration status, while the second was a statement that opposed the ban on Muslims from entering the U.S.
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