Homelessness controversy in Dane Co. - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Homelessness controversy in Dane Co.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in Dane County, and now the city and county are clashing about it, as advocates are looking for help.

As the nights get colder and winter is just right around the corner, some of Madison's homeless population has no warm place to go. The city has said there won't be a shelter this year, like the one last year at the old Don Miller Dealership on East Washington Avenue.

Last week, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced plans for a day shelter in Madison. It would be a partnership with Porchlight, Inc paid for by the county.

But advocates for the homeless community are rallying to bring attention to what they believe is needed most: an overnight shelter that can help get people back on their feet.

"A building that could be used for a 365-day a year homeless facility, with all of the services and 24-hour a day. Not to give people a free place to live forever, but have social services provided there, have job searches provided there," says Allen Barkoff, rally organizer. "Those services, if they exist, are scattered all over the area."

Barkoff says it's difficult for people with no place to go with their belongings to get across town to get help.

Parisi's day shelter announcement caused a stir at Madison Mayor Paul Soglin's office. On Friday, Soglin released a copy of a letter he sent to Parisi, accusing the county of going ahead with plans for a shelter without notifying the city. In that letter, Soglin says the city does not have the resources or the responsibility to take care of Dane County's homeless population.

Soglin says the city would have to deal with the cost of the impact on neighbors, even if operating costs are covered by the county.

Parisi says the county has contacted the city.

"We've reached out to the mayor and asked for his input, but we haven't received any input other than: ship them out of Madison," says Parisi.

When 27 News tried contacting the mayor's office for reaction on Saturday's rally, Soglin declined to comment.

A location for the county's day shelter has not been selected yet, but they're looking at a county-owned building on Wright Street in Madison, and a few other undisclosed locations. Homeless advocates say Wright Street isn't practical, and it's too far away from much of the city, so homeless people wouldn't have anywhere to go at night. The proposal is under review by the county board.

Another county plan that has been approved is a partnership with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) to help provide emergency shelter to survivors of domestic violence who are fleeing their abusers. The county will provide $15,000 for the remainder of the year, for DAIS to give victims hotel vouchers.

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