MADISON (WKOW)-- City and county officials are working on two initiatives to help homeless people in the Madison area. They're tackling the issue in two very different ways.
On the Dane County side, the Equal Opportunities Commission is working on a Homeless Bill of Rights.
"Many people that are experiencing homelessness, they're experiencing all kinds of issues and all kinds of discrimination," commission president Brian Benford says.
The commission presented twenty protections in their first draft. Members came to an agreement on seven of them, which all correspond to a similar Bill of Rights that was created in Connecticut. Members are using that bill and other bills from California, Rhode Island and Illinois as examples.
Eventually the commission hopes to use their finalized bill of rights to protect homeless people from discrimination. Some of the protections include their right to register to vote and their right to move freely in a public space without receiving intimidation from law enforcement officers.
"The compromise we came to, I think is a good start but there's a lot more work to be done," commission vice president Hedi Rudd says.
In the city of Madison, the Health and Human Needs Committee is working on a project of their own. Members are trying to create a permanent day shelter. This week they received two offers from Madison business owners who are looking to sell their buildings to the city.
"There were two proposals that were brought forward and neither of them fit the parameters that we really have outlines that need to be filled," Health and Human Needs Committee Chair Melissa Sargent says.
Members of the committee felt that Wiggie's Bar on the East side was within their price range at just over $500,000, but at 3,700 square feet, members say it doesn't fit their size requirement.
The Madison Area Rehabilitation Center is the right size with 11,500 square feet, but at $700,000 it's a little out of their price range. Plus, neither location is in the downtown area, which is one of the most important requirements for a future building.
"Because this is where most of the people are sleeping at night. The shelter system is based downtown as well as many as many of the resources that are available to folks," Sargent says.
The committee is now looking for other proposals from the community in hopes of finding a building that fits all of their needs. They have already received two additional proposals they are currently reviewing.
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