Do you care where the homeless are sleeping tonight? Some people in Madison do.
This week’s cold snap has demonstrated the power, innovation, and love of Madison’s newly-energized community of advocates for the homeless. They’ve exploited social media to highlight the problems, strategize solutions, and mobilize the community. The bitterly cold weather energized activists and volunteers in new ways, to provide shelter for those who remained homeless last night–at a church in Sun Prairie and at Prairie UU Church. And now there’s an effort to actually plan for weather emergencies! You can follow all of this at the Feeding the State Street Family facebook group, and find out how to help out. A brief visit to that group will also make clear who all are taking leadership and pointing the way forward.
There really are some amazing things occurring around homelessness in Madison. For example, there’s the work of Sarah Gillmore and the staff and volunteers at the Daytime Warming Shelter. They’ve got a website that details everything that’s going on from help with resumes to yoga. And each week there’s an update on news and other activities. Here’s this week’s.
And Occupy is working to purchase a building to provide transitional housing. You can read about that here.
If that’s not enough, it looks like we’re making progress as well in beginning to talk about shelter for people with medical needs.
A news item last week helps to explain the continued prevalence of homelessness in Madison. The vacancy rate for rentals in Dane County is a little over 2%, meaning that landlords can be very choosy and as we all know, when demand exceeds supplies, prices rise. According to statistics compiled by Madison Gas and Electric, the vacancy rate in several Madison zip codes is 1.5% or below. This vacancy rate may also explain the boom in apartment construction, though from what I can tell, most of that is directed at students or the high-end market.