Throughout Madison and the surrounding communities there are people who for a wide variety of reasons do not have a safe, clean warm place to call home. For example the Madison School District reports that for 2014-15 they had 1,414 children enrolled who were homeless. This is detrimental to these children who don’t have a stable base as a foundation for learning and is also detrimental to our community as a whole. As a community we reach out to these people through a range of nonprofit organizations, churches and government agencies.
Homelessness is a multifaceted problem that involves a wide range of situations. It is more than simply setting up a homeless day resource center, though this is certainly important. A daytime shelter needs to be more than just a place to come in out of the cold. This must be an opportunity to connect people with services and facilities that can help them reestablish themselves.
At the same time we need to distinguish between homelessness on a citywide scale and the disruptive and unacceptable behavior of a few. Those few are a detriment not only to the neighbors of these facilities but also to those homeless people who are putting forth the effort to change their circumstances.
The city and county understand the need to work collaboratively and to include non-profit organizations in addressing these issues. As a neighborhood we need to be informed of and involved in these initiatives and work together to find the best approaches to addressing the problems. I am currently working with a non-profit, city staff and other alders on a zoning change that will allow the placement of lockers for use by homeless people to store their belongings off the street and out of the elements. While this is but a small initiative, it can contribute to the improvement of the life of some people. I believe that each step is important.