Winter is getting closer, so that means the debate over homelessness is ramping up again

So the county has proposed a day shelter for Madison’s eastside, a site picked apparently out of the blue and with no input from the neighborhood. Mayor Soglin is outraged because the city wasn’t consulted and is having none of it. What frustrates me is that we’ve come down to the last minute again. Here it is early October and there are no definite plans in place for providing day shelter in the winter. No doubt the powers that be are hoping the problem will just go away and that when the library reopens next year, the seasonal fuss will die down.

Soglin is convinced that Madison is a magnet for homeless people from across the region:

“I have made it clear that the city of Madison does not have the resources or the responsibility to take care of Dane County’s and Wisconsin’s homeless population,” Soglin wrote.

Has he noticed that it is a magnet for people with homes as well? For students and young adults?

In fact, on Sunday I met a homeless man who asked me if I could make some copies of his resume. He is in Madison because he came here from a small town elsewhere in the state, not in hopes of mooching off of Madison’s largesse, but because he’s looking for work. The unemployment rate is much lower here than elsewhere in the state, lower than most of the small towns that dot the countryside.

The debate over a day center is not about providing a hang-out. It is about basic human needs–providing shelter from inclement weather–and about providing services as efficiently as possible. Rather than forcing people to traipse across the city lugging their possessions while they search for food, laundry facilities, a shower, as well as a job, a day center would put most of those services in a single place and staff it with human service professionals who could help people negotiate the labyrinthine bureaucracy of city, county, state, and federal services.

Madison.com coverage of the day center controversy is available here.

Chris Rickert writes here about Mayor Soglin’s position.

Meanwhile, we fed about 100 people last night at First Monday: meatloaf, potatoes, green beans, ice cream. Music ranged from Leonard Cohen to Opera and was very well received. There were men and women, including one family who enjoyed our hospitality:

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