This week’s update on homelessness in Madison

It’s increasingly clear that there will be fewer services and no day center available for homeless people this winter. Pat Schneider has the story. Her reporting on the exchange between Mayor Soglin and Alder Palm:

Mayor Paul Soglin forcefully repeated his conviction that the city cannot and should not be expected to take care of homeless people, many of whom he believes are dropped off in downtown Madison by nearby communities or agencies like the state Department of Corrections.

“I want to know why some struggling household in this city should pay for that,” he told members of the Board of Estimates. “I’m sick and tired of seeing letters in newspapers saying ‘you have responsibility to take care of the homeless.’ Oh, there are no homeless in suburban communities, no homeless in the townships, no homeless outside of Dane County?”

Palm responded that if people are living here now, they’re Madison residents.

“We should treat them like they are our neighbors. I’m sorry if there’s a huge political battle with the state, other municipalities and neighborhood associations,” Palm said. “At end of the day, none of that helps people trying to find a warm safe place to stay and get assistance.”

Ah, but there’s the newly renovated Central Library where homeless people can spend the day. Here’s Joe Tarr’s story.

We’ll be talking at Grace this evening at 7:00 about these developments and what else we might do to respond to the ongoing crisis in our neighborhood.



Madison, a town without pity, updated

Joe Tarr (Isthmus) reports on last night’s demo and Homeless Issues Committee meeting, where, you guessed it, a day resource center was on the agenda. Pat Schneider has also written about it.

Because I’m feeling rather nostalgic this evening, I thought I would link to blogposts in 2011 and 2012 that addressed the same issue.

From August, 2012: “A day shelter for Madison” (in which I talk about a patient discharged from the VA hospital and sent to Grace)

From October, 2012

From November, 2012 (my testimony before the County Board of Supervisors)

From November, 2011 (with links to earlier developments in the story)

Couldn’t we all just save energy by referring back to these earlier debates and conversations?  It’s political football season again, with our vulnerable homeless population serving as the football, getting kicked around by bureaucrats and elected officials.

This week in homelessness

Another flurry of news (to go with the week’s snowstorm) on homelessness in Madison.

First the not-so-good. The property Occupy Madison was hoping to purchase for housing was sold to another buyer. The group held a successful fundraiser this week and is hoping to locate another property that would suit its needs.

Token Creek, where Occupy has spent most of the winter was under water this week. Fortunately, churches in Sun Prairie again opened their doors. They have to leave the county park in February, and there are no solutions to this ongoing crisis. Here’s a pic of the scene from earlier this week:

76321_4144614817646_874521071_nIt’s not my photo; it was shared with me and if you would like to know more, I would be happy to speak with you privately.

A couple of pieces on Sarah Gillmore and the Day Center. From Joe Tarr of Isthmus, a profile and a look at what’s happening at the day center, as well as some questions about the future after the temporary facility closes in March. I’ll put a plug in for Sarah. I first met her almost three years ago and was knocked over by her passion, her no-nonsense approach, and her deep commitment to the homeless community. She rocks! Here’s an interview with her as well.

Also from Joe Tarr, a brief piece on an effort to provide a shelter for homeless vets. The man he interviews was homeless and a guest at the Drop-In Shelter in December after being released from the VA hospital. Where have we heard that story before?

Right now, the best place to find out about needs of the homeless community in Madison and how you can help, is the Feeding the State Street Family facebook page.

It’s going to be bitterly cold tonight again.

The Spirit blows where it wills

In February, The Isthmus published an article by Joe Tarr about the Men’s Drop-In Shelter at Grace Church. It was titled “Bleak House” and it aroused considerable anger among supporters of Porchlight and the shelter. It also raised issues about conditions in the shelter. There were already conversations taking place among churches and social service agencies about homelessness in Madison but the article galvanized interest. For example, we have probably had a half-dozen meetings at Grace about the shelter, homelessness, and what our role as a parish is.

Many people lashed out at The Isthmus. Complaints centered around the author’s unfairness and narrow perspective. Looking back, it’s clear to me that the wagons were circled in protection of Porchlight’s work.

The week after the article appeared, I received a call from someone at Epic Systems. They had read the article and wanted to help. I put them in touch with Steve Schooler, executive director of Porchlight. A few weeks later, a group of people from Epic toured the shelter at Grace, as well as other Porchlight facilities. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a meeting with Porchlight management and Epic to go over their proposal. As The Isthmus reported this week, Epic is proposing to fund and oversee major renovations to the space at Grace.

Often, when things we love, have deep commitment to, and have worked hard for, come under criticism, our tendency is to react viscerally. We want to protect what we love and work for. But almost every project, every institution, every agency, can be improved. Criticism is not just destructive; it can open up new possibilities. Had Joe Tarr not written that article, Epic would not have become involved.

Thanks to him, to Epic, and to everyone who works so hard to help make the shelter a place of refuge for homeless men.

We never know what might emerge from things that on the surface seem negative. As Jesus said in John 3: “The [Spirit] blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.”