I’ll admit I’ve been critical of Mayor Soglin’s statements and policies regarding homelessness. At times, it has seemed that he has wanted to avoid the issue entirely or evade the city’s share of responsibility to address homelessness and the underlying issues that contribute to it. In recent weeks, however, he has seemed to have something of a change of heart.
The inclusion in the city’s capital budget of money towards the construction of up to 100 units of single room occupancy for homeless or recently homeless people is a very important step. With a rental occupancy rate of around 2%, there are simply not enough vacant units to house people in Madison and little incentive for landlords to rent to low-income people.
Even more encouraging is what happened yesterday. Mayor Soglin involved himself personally in the plight of a homeless family. After seeing them at a bus stop on his way to work, Mayor Soglin went to the office, turned around, and spent considerable time ferrying them to various agencies in an effort to find them housing. The article is here.
He learned first-hand about the limited services available and about how difficult it is to access those services. These are things those of us who work with homeless people know all too well. Indeed, the family Mayor Soglin worked with yesterday had stopped by Grace earlier in the week. He also probably experienced the frustration and anguish many of us do when our efforts to find housing or other help fail.
Of course, the city can’t solve the problem of homelessness by itself but it needs to engage constructively with the county, with social services, and with advocates to address both the lack of housing as well as the underlying reasons that contribute to homelessness.
I’m grateful to Mayor Soglin for his pledge to address these issues, and for taking the time to get to know and to try to help a homeless family yesterday.