Yay! There will be a warming shelter for the homeless this winter again. Boo! The process sucks and the details matter.
So here’s the press release. The county is doing it instead of the city, comments to follow.
County Executive Announces Initiative to Keep Homeless Warm This Winter, Provide Emergency Shelter for Survivors of Domestic Violence
Two new county partnerships will provide shelter services to keep individuals who are homeless warm this winter and address the mounting need for emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.
”This plan ensures people will have a place to keep warm during the colder days that are ahead and protect survivors of domestic violence and their families by helping them access emergency shelter,” said Parisi. ”The new partnerships we’re announcing today will expand the unrivaled amount of services the county currently provides to address two pressing needs this winter.”
Under the new initiative, the county will partner with Porchlight Inc. to open a day shelter facility at a county-owned building on Wright St. in Madison.
Porchlight ran a similar facility that the City of Madison ceased the use of 2012. At the shelter, Porchlight will offer staffing, programming, and transportation to and from the day center for homeless individuals seeking refuge from the cold winter weather.
The county will also partner with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) to help provide emergency shelter to survivors of domestic violence who are fleeing their abusers. DAIS currently runs a shelter to provide housing, but demand frequently exceeds capacity. DAIS offers alternative emergency shelter, such as hotel room vouchers, but funding for this effort ran out earlier this year. The county will provide the funds necessary to help DAIS perform this essential function through the remainder of the year ($15,000).
“The County Board is passionate about serving the needs of the most vulnerable among us,” said County Board Chair Scott McDonell. “We have worked on the issues facing the homeless for several months and I am pleased the county is able to provide daytime shelter before cold weather sets in.”
The County Executive’s initiative also includes a directive to the county’s Department of Human Services to conduct an assessment of the more than $1.5 million in services the county currently provides to address homelessness. The assessment will serve to identify potential gaps or overlaps in services, as well as better ways to utilize the funding during tough budget times.
The proposal is subject to the approval by the County Board’s Personnel and Finance Committee and the full County Board on Thursday night. If approved, both the day shelter and emergency shelter funding for DAIS will be available on November 1st of this year. The initiative is estimated to cost the county under $50,000 for services provided the remainder of the year.
Ok, so I’m grateful that these services will exist. It’s better than nothing which is what we had, but . . . I know, people hate that word, especially when I say it . . . but HEY! There’s some real issues here! The first of which, doesn’t Porchlight already run a day shelter out on Martin St., why isn’t that adequate to provide this service already. They get $485K to run it . . . sigh . . . ok, nevermind, we won’t go there this morning.
1. We don’t know any of the details. Even tho the county board will be voting on it tonight, no one I know has been able to get a copy of the substitute resolution or is willing to share it. Call me cynical, but this always worries me. When the press release comes out with the spin before you can see the details that is usually trouble – someone is trying to control something and has something to hide. And, since they will be voting on this in less than 12 hours, this is awful, awful process for the public. But I don’t think they care about what the public input might be, given that the public hasn’t been privy to any of the discussions about this.
2. They had a whole year to work on this. What happened to government having a fair and open process when contracting? Where was the request for proposals to ask what vendors might want to provide these services? Why are certain agencies anointed to be the ones to get the money from the county? If there are going to be new services, who decided these are the services we need? We need all kinds of services and I’m grateful that these services will be available but where was the discussion and input about if this was the best use of the money? I might very well come to the same conclusions as Joe Parisi did, but I don’t know how he came to these conclusions.
3. So, this location is not great (5 miles from the square), but can be ok if there is adequate transportation. However, er, but . . . um, so far Porchlight’s track record on transportation is really shitty. Their current “transportation” to the Hostility House (the current day shelter for the homeless that is barely used) is a van in the morning for a limited number of people (about 20, or less than 20% of the people in the men’s shelter) where they drop people off over 3 miles from the square and give them 2 bus tickets to go look for housing or jobs and to get back downtown. I’m very concerned that the “transportation” provided to and from the day shelter is going to be inadequate and will not work for many. Additionally, are they going to take people out there, drop them off somewhere for lunch or to do their laundry etc, take them back to the warming shelter and then take them back downtown. That seems a little ridiculous and I doubt they will actually do that, but will this really work for people who are homeless if they don’t? Maybe that is the plan, provide the services in a ridiculous manner and when people don’t use it, say there is no need? Last year there were about 100 people a day using the shelter, will that many use this shelter at this location?
4. Speaking of will this work for the people using the services. I think a key to this being successful is that they need an advisory board of people using the services to help guide the services available at the warming center. There needs to be a way for the people using the service to evaluate it as well. And, there needs to be a third party complaint system so that people who have issues have a fair and independent way to make a complaint about the services. The current complaint system for Porchlight gets appealed to the Executive Director who always backs up the staff.
5. What about those who Porchlight has blacklisted? I know several people who, based on one incident, sometimes years ago, have been forever banned from using any Porchlight services. What happens to them? Also related to this is that there are several people who I know who won’t have anything to do with Porchlight because of the way the staff treat people. It’s often random/unfair, dehumanizing, rude, degrading . . . etc. What are their alternatives? Oh, I guess they should just be grateful and shut up?
6. Alliant Energy Center (3 miles from the men’s shelter) option for showers, restrooms and lockers should be available as well. Because of the location on the far east side (5 miles from the square), what I suspect will be inadequate transportation services and the people who don’t use the services, there needs to be another option. They have costed out the other solution and figured out the details and I think it needs to remain an option.
7. One last note, I worked on a gaps analysis for the mayor, edited by members of the Homeless Consortium and here is what we came up with . . . I’m not sure we need to spend money on this, but it will be great to do it more formally if it is done openly and fairly and they really talk to the people who use the services to let them express where the gaps are.
SUMMARY OF HOMELESS SERVICES AND HOUSING FOR THE HOMELESS
PEOPLE NOT SERVED OR UNDER-SERVED BY SHELTER SYSTEM
- Transgendered persons (Served by Safe Haven if mental illness, served by Tellurian if mental illness or AODA issues)
- Couples (they have to be split up)
- Men who have used 60 days in shelter since November 1, unless it is 20 degrees or less
- Women who have used 60 days in shelter, unless it is 20 degrees or less
- Families (children) who have used up their 180 life-time limit, no cold weather exception
- People who have been banned from shelter
- People who have been drinking alcohol during the day (some excepts on case-by case basis)
- Families on the waiting list for shelter – may be able to spend a night in Warming Shelter (currently 20 families)
- Unaccompanied Youth
- People with pets
- Daytime use for all populations ( limited use at Hospitality House)
- People with emotional issues or mental health issues that struggle with living in shelter
- People being released from corrections
- People who have 1st shift jobs and need to walk to work before buses have stared (cannot get enough sleep at shelter)
- People who work 2nd shift jobs who can’t get into shelter because they are late
- People working 3rd shift
- People recovering from surgery or illness that requires bed rest for healing
- People with certain illnesses or disabilities
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual persons (report feeling unsafe in shelters)
- Young children in the Madison Schools
From 2010 Annual Report
- 257 Units for single adults (46 SROs for men, 88 women, 123 men and women)
- 217 for Families (183 for families and couples, 34 women and children only)
- 529 Units for special populations (5 single men with AODA issues, 27 single women with AODA, 117 SRO for single adults with AODA issues, 12 for women with children with AODA issues, 6 SRO men with disability, 17 SROS for women with a disability, 96 SROs for single adults with a disability, 34 for familes with disabilities, 117 for single adults and families with disabilities, 31 SRO for single adults with dual dianosis, 3 for women from Department of Corrections, 64 SRO for single adults that are veterans)
More specifically, by population
- Permanent and transitional housing for people with HIV/AIDS (AIDS Network)
- 62 or older (McKee Apartments, has a waiting list of 10 people)
- Veterans (VA Veterans Homeless Program)
- Housing for people with disabilities who are trying to increase their income/self-sufficiency (CAC 14 households, adding 4 more)
- Single women 18 – 26 who are pregnant with their first child (Elizabeth House)
- Single women with kids and an income (St. Vincent de Paul can apply for waiting list)
- Women with 1 or 2 children under 5 years old and an income (YWCA, waiting list closed)
- Housing for people with mental illnesses – (Goodwill – 3 group homes pay all SSI except $100, 7 apartment buildings require 30% of income)
- Men or women with mental illnesses – (Housing Initiatives, 85 people on waiting list, Porchlight, Tellurian charges fees)
- Women with mental illnesses (Women in Transition)
- Short term alcohol or drug treatment (Hope Haven, North Bay, Chris Farley House – up to 3 months)
- Alcohol or drug issues (Porchlight)
- Singles inpatient drug and alcohol treatment with insurance (Tellurian)
- Single men and women (Porchlight, accept case management and pay $239-431 per month)
- Single women with no children and an income (Holly House – 24 month limit, YWCA)
- Single men (Port St. Vincent $360 per month, 40 people on waiting list)
- Families (The Road Home and YWCA: Rapid Re-Housing 45 families, pays first month rent and security deposit, small rental subsidy; Housability 23 units for families with an adult with a disability; Second Chance, 15 units where tenant pays 30% of income towards rent and money is used to repair credit; Housing and Hope 15 units, will be 30 in 2013, for mfamilies with high needs, has on-site case managment)
Waiting lists for public housing are as follows as of 6/8/2012:
1-Bedroom Unit (Disabled Designations) = 12+ Months
1-Bedroom Unit (Age 62 or older Designations) = 3 – 6 Months
1-Bedroom Unit (Age 50-61, no disability) = 12+ Months
1-Bedroom Unit (No Designation) = Indefinite wait time
2-Bedroom Unit = 1-2 Years
3-Bedroom Unit = 1-2 Years
4-Bedroom Unit = 1-2 Years
5-Bedroom Unit = 1-2 Years
For public housing you must have good credit which is problematic for poor people, 24 months of positive rental history and no criminal history. Waiting lists for Section 8 at the City and County are closed and have been for years.
Market rate housing is also near impossible. The second quarter of the year is usually the best time to rent and there was only a 3.2 vacancy rate, the lowest in years (info goes back to 1995). Many require good credit, 3 times rent in income, no evictions or criminal history, etc.
I hope I’m proven wrong on all the above criticisms and things go awesome and Porchlight finds the money to really make this work, with real services and transportation and has some awesome staff working there. I really do. That is my hope . . . and we all know what “hope” has gotten us. I don’t like to make my decisions based on fears, but when they are well informed and fact based, well, you can’t ignore that. I really want this to work and we need this to work so we can work on long term solutions so we don’t go through this same unfair process at the last minute every year – but I’m worried. The details matter and I can’t wait to see them – but don’t expect my questions to get answers in the next 12 hours.
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