Is the mayor saying that he thinks it is ok for landlords to refuse to rent to people who were homeless, or that employers could refuse to hire them, that businesses can lock their doors to them and government and refuse them services that everyone else can use? And that they can do that based on the fact or perception that they are homeless? How in the world will that help people stop being homeless? What happened to the commitment to racial equity and social justice? What happened to the work on poverty he touts?
The Mayor’s Good
I think he must have fallen and hit his head or is suffering from an untreated mental illness. His erratic behavior is unexplainable at this point. On the one hand, he has done a lot of good things:
– Calling for Housing First programs (instead of keeping people homeless until they are ready for housing, house people and then work with them on goals. It’s more cost effective and successful)
– Signing on to the Zero 2016 campaign to end veteran homelessness by the end of the year and chronic homelessness (person has a disability and has been homeless more than a year or 4 times in 3 years) by 2016
– Committing to build 1000 affordable housing units in 5 years and finding $20M in funding for it
– Creating the Rethke project, the first true housing first program in the county
– Hiring a housing person for the city who has been working on the first comprehensive housing report I will have ever seen from the city (more than 20 years).
– Working with the county to find a site for the day center
– Working towards building a men’s shelter (which was previously a taboo issue) and even saying he’s considering a wet shelter (even more taboo)
– Asking a group of people to advise him on homeless issues after his latest freak out about homeless people
– Recognizing the homeless programs are not working for single adults and telling Board of Estimates he is considering reallocating funding in the 2016 budget towards programs that work
– Ensuring that poverty is part of the conversation in the city’s economic development plan
– Talking about poverty during his last two campaigns, and making it a priority in community services spending
– Consistently pointing out glaring deficiencies in our AODA and mental health systems that do not work for people needing those services
Mayor Dave did none of this. Mayor Sue didn’t either. Bauman at least held a housing summit in 1998, but then was the tie breaking vote to kill section 8 recipients being a protected class until the county passed it many years later. Mayor Dave killed IZ or inclusionary zoning (which created more than 40 units in just a couple years – more than any other program during that period of time), and stopped funding and tried to raid the affordable housing trust fund. In comparison, the items above that Soglin is working on is better than any other mayor in the last 20 years. He’s is actually taking significant strides towards addressing affordable housing, which is the antidote to homelessness.
The Mayor’s Bad
On the other hand . . . he appears to be mean spirited, bigoted and delusional. I believe he is acting on bad information in some cases and completely making things up in others. His contradictory public statements about closing down encampments throughout the city and making everyone sleep at the city-county building and then trying to kick them out of there is where I begin to worry about his health. It makes no sense at all. His fomenting negative stereotypes, prejudices and intolerance do not fit with all his talk about equity and social and racial justice. His blaming homeless people for their situation and not taking the time to understand the issues is infuriating, as he is a smart man and if he made data driven decisions based on the science he has supported in name he would start to see other solutions than throwing a temper tantrum. He says the words Housing First but fails to grasp key elements of what that means (trauma informed care, harm reduction, etc.) His obsession with watching live video feeds of homeless people in his office is just downright creepy and the stories he has invented in his head about what is going on with people are disturbing compared to the reality of the situation that can be obtained by simply talking to people. His characterization of grass roots groups as coddling and enabling people without homes displays his true lack of understanding of the issues people are facing. Failure to understand that if people’s basic needs are not met it is hard to make progress on larger issues (the housing first part). Continuing the charade that there are services if people just participate in them, particularly being blind to the time limits imposed by the shelters, and saying that people can just go to shelter is so disingenuous its disturbing. I could go on . . . but its painful.
I get asked about him all the time and all I can do is shrug. I have no clue what is in that man’s head, but it isn’t rational and his emotional outbursts on these issues are bewildering.
2 CURRENT ISSUES/CONCERNS
Issues at the city-county building
The mayor or the mayor’s office have tried twice to remove people from in front of the city-county building. They have done this through the City-County Liaison Committee that is the “landlord” for the building and creates the policies there. The mayor wants to make it trespassing for people to be there. His crack down on other encampments combined with these action essentially make it illegal for people to exist in Madison if you are out of shelter days and don’t have a home. Criminalizing homelessness is not effective, it just sets people back further from being successful in housing and creates more barriers. While I don’t think anyone thinks that they should sleep on the cement in front of the building, the problem isn’t that they are in that location. The problem is there is no where for them to go. I have explained this to many people who don’t know that single men get 60 days in the shelter and can stay if its under 20 degrees outside. (I guess their building magically expands when its cold) The days start getting counted on Nov 1st and by mid to late March, many people are out of days until next November. Or saving those last 5 for rainy and stormy nights. Single women get 30 days, 60 days if they participate in case management. They have the same 20 degree rule, but they have a limit of 3 women, the rest get turned away. Their days are calculated based on when the entered shelter. Couples without kids don’t have a shelter to stay in unless they separate. People are turned away if they have been drinking except when it is less than 20 degrees. Howeverm, the rules seem to be applied in an ad hoc kind of way. Anyways, 30 – 50 people sleep at the city county building at night right now. No tents or shelter from the weather, a portapotty that you have to wade through a lake to get to, no electricity, no water, not enough garbage cans, no kitchen, and they now put their belongings in a dog kennel that is not protected from the weather or thieves. At Bubbles people are doing a lot more laundry because it gets wet there. Nearly everyone I know has had something stolen, usually their blankets. Makes the Occupy encampment on E. Wash look like a swanky hotel in comparison. The first vote on the committee failed with only the mayor’s office votibg on it if I’m remembering correctly, just a few weeks ago they voted again on it, this time it failed on a 4-4 vote with Enis Ragland (Mayor’s staff), Jeff Kostelic (Joe Parisi’s staff), Alder Sheri Carter (President of the Board of Porchlight) and Mary Kolar (“champion” for the failed day center at Martin St.) voted for it. The mayor and his staff are telling everyone they want to put this on the agenda again, for a 3rd vote.
Homelessness as a protected class
At the last council meeting, the council unanimously voted for homelessness to be a protected class in the City of Madison. The mayor was absent. He vetoed the ordinance that would have made it so landlords, employers, businesses open to the public and city services could not deny services to people, because they are homeless. Add this to the long list of counter-productive behaviors he has engaged in. Making it harder fr people without homes to get into housing or gets jobs is just freaking stupid. If he wants people off the steps of the City County Building, this isn’t going to help make it happen.
This is an equity and racial justice issue
I have to share this info from the 2013 Report on Homelessness.
page 3 – A large majority of families served by shelters in 2013 (79%) identified themselves as non-white. This figure was unchanged from 2012. More than three in four families served (76%) were African-American, 20% were Caucasian, 3% were mixed race, and less than 1% were Asian. The percentage of individuals in families that identified themselves as non-white has stayed consistently high over the years.
page 8 – Forty-seven percent of single men in shelter identified themselves as non-white, with the largest group being African American (42%).
page 9 – Fifty-two percent of homeless single women surveyed in 2013 stated they were non-white, with the largest group being African American (47%).
I guess this isn’t a big surprise that there are large racial disparities, this is after all Dane County.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1. Contact your alders and ask them to override the mayor’s veto. (firstname.lastname@example.org, include your address so your alder knows you live in their district, the email will go to all 20 of them.)
2. Contact the mayor (email@example.com) and tell him to stop his war on people without homes and to start working for, not against, housing first, Zero 2016, a day center, a new men’s shelter and a wet shelter. Ask him why homeless people should be able to be discriminated against in housing, employment, business and government services, how is that helping?
3. Watch for more details, if the alders do put the override of the veto on the agenda, there will be a rally at 6:00 next Tuesday in front of the city-county building.
4. Encourage the alders and mayor to consider the recommendations of the mayor’s advisory group (that he met with once and then stopped)
Advisory Group Notes
Preliminary Brainstormed Suggestions on Madison and Dane County Homeless System for Mayor Soglin (not in priority order, meeting notes)
Present: Tami Miller (Friends of the State St. Family), Teri Coates (Helping Hands and FSSF), Connor Wild (Bethel), Will Brewer (Porchlight), Karen Andro (1st United Methodist), Linda Ketcham (Madison Urban Ministry), Heidi Wegleitner (Dane County Board Supervisor), Sarah Lim (Tellurian), Brenda Konkel
– Best practices = trauma informed care, harm reduction, housing first
– We already have the Homeless Services Consortium and Joint City-County Homeless Issues Committee and we should as much as possible work through them. Advice of the City-County Homeless Issues Committee should be given more weight by elected officials. Their recommendations should be taken seriously. We need the Homeless Services Consortium to be more transparent and functional.
– Accountability. How we are holding the city, county and funded nonprofits accountable to commitments made to recognize housing as a human right, implement housing first, end veterans homelessness and chronic homelessness?
– Flexible funding that can be used to serve folks currently unserved due to major funding sources eligibility criteria. Allows for more flexibility and innovation.
SHORT TERM SOLUTIONS
Downtown Day Resource Center
– Could double as a night shelter overflow temporarily instead of building more shelter if necessary (see needs below)
– Rent space as soon as possible, for this winter
Basic needs – easy/immediate and relatively cheap fixes
– Red Boxes
– Lockers in downtown parking ramps
– Return regularly cleaned portapotties
– legal place to sleep (see MUM report)
– Use trauma informed person centered language that avoids further stereotyping people without homes
– Be on message with housing first and Zero 2016 goals and what we need to make them happen. Focus on best practices, encourage partnership.
– City/County united front
– – tackle the real/big issues, not periphery
– – Stop making it sound like “we have sufficient services” because it’s clearly not working
SHORT TO MEDIUM TERM SOLUTIONS
Zero 2016 Campaign
– Follow through, resources and real commitment from agencies, particularly with housing first
– Need case management/advocates for people at the top of the list
– Rapid rehousing for singles, currently there are zero units in the community
– Longer Registry Week
Outreach Workers and Case Managers
– Training of case managers/outreach – successful ones train new or unsuccessful ones (meet, share ideas, share outcomes, increased number of outreach workers)
– Outreach workers not in silos/flexible funding (mental health – challenge to document, aoda, downtown)
– Developmental disability and AODA (gaps in outreach services)
End Youth homelessness by 2017
Coordinated intake? Homeless Hotline working?
Affordable Housing Funds
– Rapidly house the people with the highest need (people traditionally excluded/with the most barriers)
– Monthly bus pass program for people without homes or free rides for homeless persons
CDA and nonprofits
– Evictions need to be handled differently so people aren’t returned to homelessness, should be for major issues
– CDA preference for homelessness and reasonable/reality-based admissions criteria with individualized assessment of applications and an opportunity to meet with admissions staff prior to receiving a denial decision. See New Orleans Housing Authority policy.
LONG TERM SOLUTIONS
Comprehensive Downtown Day Resource Center
– Comprehensive Permanent Downtown (see Dane County Report for minimum requirements which may need to be modified) http://www.forwardlookout.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/FINAL-REPORTtoHHN2-1-13.pdf
– – basic needs in one place -showers, laundry, lockers, food, personal essentials, survival gear, phone charging
– – services – housing and job placement assistance, aoda, mental health including a walk-in psychiatrist services, legal services, daycare area,
Mental Health System
– Need to get diagnosed to qualify for programs but jumping through the hoops is difficult, not trauma informed processes
– Cost of medications
– Beds available when needed, not appointments in a week
– Beds available when needed, not appointments in a week
– What do we do when people run out of days but haven’t been able to find housing (do they get help finding housing while in shelter?)
– Wet shelter
– More beds for women and families so no child is turned away
– Concerns about shelter (safety, comfortable, untreated mental illness, physical and medical needs)
– Need for privacy – trauma informed care, PTSD, etc – single rooms