Some statistics on homelessness in Dane County

The City of Madison has released its annual report on “The Homeless Served in Dane County.” The full report is here: 2012 Annual Report Final print . The Executive Summary is here: 2012 Annual Report Executive Summary Final

Providers report that they offered shelter to nearly 3400 individuals in 2012, a 10% increase over 2011. Of those individuals, around 42% were families with children; the next largest group was single men, around 40%.

I’ll quote from the summary:

Two-thirds of all individuals who stayed in shelters reported they had lived in Dane County for longer than a year. Only a few percent reported living here for less than a month. These numbers reflect a dramatic change from data collected in the 1990’s when nearly two-thirds of homeless persons reported living in Dane County for less than a month.


The reported data make clear the imbalance between the need for shelter and local capacity to accommodate that need. There are currently nine shelter programs, each serving distinct populations – families, single men, persons fleeing domestic violence, etc. The total capacity among reporting providers is about 310 beds, plus 65 seasonal and overflow beds. Few, if any new beds have been added to the system in the past year. There is also some ability to use motel vouchers for short term stays when necessary, though that is a more costly proposition.
Limited shelter capacity has led to rationing.

There: an admission of fact: “Limited shelter capacity has led to rationing.” Whether or not shelter providers, social service agencies, and local politicians want to admit it, rationing of space is long-standing policy.

One important thing to note about these numbers. They only reflect what is reported to the shelters at intake, and by the shelters to the city. In other words, this report doesn’t account for people who don’t try to access the shelter system. Thus the report doesn’t reflect the true scope of the need nor the true total numbers of homeless people. The only report that attempts to do this is the semi-annual Point-In-Time survey (conducted on January 30 and July 30).

In other news related to the homeless, Brenda Konkel points out that 5 homeless people have died in Madison in recent months.

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