Earlier this week the Homeless Issues Committee held a meeting designed to look at the homeless shelter system policies. This will be a three part series that reveals what happened. Needs some formatting and links, but there it is . . . (trying not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good . . . or preventing it from being never!)
THREE PART SERIES
I’m going to put the audio up on each of these posts so that you can hear precisely what happened. So I won’t have to put up with accusations on Facebook and other places about me twisting anyone’s words. It’s also slowing me down a bit . . . which is why this will be a three part post. I’m also hoping to scan a bunch of documents that I’m not sure I have and make sure that the information talked about is here as well, for future reference for guests at the shelter as well as for the advocates. I have some of the documents, but not all, so I am hoping to get them later today.
The first portion is where I laid out some of the concerns – by no means all of the concerns, but some of them, a a list of ideas about where improvements could be made in the system.
I will have to admit, I am mostly talking about Porchlight here. The first presentation was from Salvation Army (single women and family shelter – including the warming center). The second presentation was from the YWCA and The Road Home (family shelter). The third was from Porchlight (single men). I will combine the posts for families and single women together and then have the third post be about Porchlight. Admittedly, the statement below primarily do refer to Porchlight more than the others, and when they speak, you will see why, the others just don’t ban people the same way or as often.
Oddly enough, unlike most of the other Homeless Issues Committee where they spend the first hour or two hearing from homeless persons, this time, despite the fact that many were there, not many spoke. In fact, none spoke directly to this issue. I found that odd. Only Allen Barkoff and I spoke.
Allen talked about the need for a third party complaint system and talked about one incident in particular.
When I spoke, here is what I said:
- I am not representing the agency I work for, but speaking about the work I do as a volunteer with Occupy Madison (primarily) and also Madison Homelessness Initiative/Project Bubbles which is the free laundry program as well as, to a much lesser extent, ASO and Feeding the State St. Family.
- I only spoke because I expected others to be here and they are not, perhaps it is because it is hard to speak out when people who can retaliate against you are sitting right behind you.
- They should look at the comments on the survey that was handed out at the last meeting, however, they did not get those comments. I think that the comments says a lot of what people would say if they were comfortable coming to the meeting and speaking up. The survey went out to 280 homeless persons.
- I spoke about how hard it is to advocate for to find out what happens in the shelters and when I post things on facebook, I and the people that stay in shelters “get chastised” (what I meant was get called liars), but I as an advocate can’t get information about the incident without a release of information. Obviously the clients aren’t wrong 100% of the time and the shelter staff aren’t wrong 100% of the time and sometimes the witnesses have even a third version of what happened and each one is probably telling a bit of the truth and its hard to sort it all out.
- Ideas for Improvement
1. Third Party Complaint System
2. Policies Listed on the Website
3. Written Explanation if Banned
4. Written description of appeal process at time of ban
5. At some point a ban should be reviewed
6. Alternatives should be available for those banned
- In the survey half the people have been homeless less than 6 months and the other half more than 6 months and the second group sometimes gets into patterns of hopelessness, thinking that they aren’t going to get any help and it makes it hard for them to get out of that cycle of homelessness.
- Dianne Hesselbeing asks about the status of the Fordem Ave. Building. The answer is stalled. We have $46,000 and no building. The building we had has a lot of features that makeit difficult for us to find something comparable at that price. Plus, it is hard to site a building.
VERIFYING THE STORY
I have sent the following email to Porchlight to try to figure out how I and others can get information – I haven’t gotten a response yet, but not much time has gone by and I suspect I will get one soon and then I can tell you what they say. To fill you in a bit, I posted about a guy sleeping in my basement and Porchlight staff accused me and the client of being a liar.
Just so you know, the information posted to Facebook is information I received from a (perhaps uniformed) Porchlight staff member, I didn’t think I needed to verify it. The text I received said – “Room on your porch for a new guy who is already banned -for smoking to close to grace entrance” That was the information I received. I had no reason to question it.
And, as you know, because of confidentiality, I can’t confirm it with your staff. In the future, how could I confirm with you the stories that I get from folks. What would that process look like and who do I call? What would you need from me to share information about your guests? I assumed that without some sort of release I would not be able to get any information from staff and since I’m not working for any agency, I wasn’t sure what you wanted or needed. Let me know, I’d be happy to verify incidents in the future.
The survey was responded to from 220 people on the street (Thanks Ronnie and Uly for helping distribute!), as well as at Porchlight and the Daytime Warming Shelter. An additional 60 surveys will filled out by participants (mostly families) at Salvation Army, CAC, The Road Home and other places. There were 50 or so surveys that go copied wrong, so there were missing questions/results. Also, obviously, the people who did this survey (me included) were are not experts in making surveys and there could have been some things done better – including asking people about how hard it is to find housing! Doh. The survey was distributed September – December. Most important answers at the end – the open ended question. Anyways, the imperfect, but still helpful results are as follows:
1. How long have you been dealing with homelessness?
69 – less than 1 month
33 – 6 months – 1 year
24 – 5 – 10 years
91 – 1 – 6 months
56 – 1 – 2 years
17 – more than 10 years
24 – 2 – 5 years
3 – Other (please write in):
Since 1979, halfway house, All my life
2. If you are currently dealing with homelessness, where are you sleeping? (Mark all that apply)
22 – The Salvation Army Family Shelter
7 – Motel with a case manager from The Salvation Army
6 – The Road Home IHN: Family Shelter
4 – Domestic Violence DAIS emergency shelter
10 – YWCA Family Shelter
22 – Camping
111 – Porchlight/Grace Men’s Shelter
28 – The Salvation Army Single Women’s Shelter
25 – In a car / vehicle
36 – With friends or family
60 – Outdoors
63 – On the street
12 – Warming House (@The Salvation Army)
2 – Briarpatch host home
14 – Other (please write in):
Hotels/motels with others
Treatment center – AODA
In my car when it’s cold
Have trouble at apt. building
Parking deck hallways
3. For individuals not sleeping indoors: Which location(s) below describe where you sleep? (Mark all that apply)
32 State Street area
48 Capitol Square area
5 Campus area
24 A park in/around Madison
26 On a bench
8 A park outside of Madison
11 Sneak into a building
4 Under a bridge in Madison
3 Under a bridge outside of Madison
16 Bus shelter
28 Other (please write in):
In a parking lot
Emergency Rooms (UW and Meriter)
Any all night parking area
Anywhere to stay out of the weather
In my van behind Salvation Army
By railroad tracks
Walking around at night to avoid police with trespassing tickets for sleeping
Find a good neighborhood that won’t call police for a day – sleeping outside – Most neighbors don’t want to see that!
4. For individuals not using a homeless shelter: Why not? (Mark all that apply)
25 Waiting list(s)
9 Do not have necessary IDs
52 Out of days
6 Not eligible
2 Suspended (temporary)
4 Banned (permanently)
28 I didn’t like a previous
29 Not enough privacy
35 I don’t feel safe in shelter(s)
16 I want to stay with partner (no kids)
7 Conflict with shelter rules / staff
9 Mobility issues
25 Other (please write in):
Just do it in the winter.
I don’t give up on the people that I care about and love
Not enough privacy especially in the shower area
I want to privately pray
Too many loud mouth assholes
Too many drugs and alcohol
Saving days for when I need them
Didn’t get there on time
To keep days at shelter
Have low income apartment
Stealing my meds and other things
We are a couple and we are apart
Need a day away from all the disrespect we get
Forget to call
No pet policy
Keep days open
Get denied shelter
My freedom and independence would be compromised on a daily basis, the barter system I have with my auto mechanic to park/sleep nights on their property as security in exchange for service, parts for my car
Squalid conditions; some act like prison guards from the movie “Brubaker”, etc., arbitrary and capricious rule enforcement, general attitude of “I’m better than you” by all staff of Porchlight, Inc.
Sometimes I don’t want to stay there because I want to be able to hang out later than check-in time.
Get rid of the loud mouth assholes, and the shelter would be a whole lot better place. Those are the ones who make it a f- – - n’ hell hole to want to stay there.
A lot of people are sick there!
5. When you started dealing with homelessness, where did you go for help? (52 answers missing due to copying error) (Mark all that apply)
45 The Salvation Army
28 211 “First Call for Help”
91 Men’s Shelter
14 Single Women’s Shelter
21 Safe Haven
67 Hospitality House
5 Briarpatch – youth services
57 Porchlight, Inc.
3 DAIS – domestic violence
0 AIDS Network
8 The Road Home
19 Journey Mental Health Center
4 The Port
45 Food Pantry(s)
8 Housing Initiatives
14 Tenant Resource Center
9 Housing Help Desk
12 Community Action Coalition
44 Bethel Lutheran (Mark)
16 Bubbles Program
10 Tami / State St. Family
32 Friends or Family
20 Occupy Madison
11 HEALTH Hut (Nurse Barb)
11 Warming House @ The Salvation Army
10 Wisconsin Rescue Mission
2 Centro Hispano
3 Outreach: LGBTQ center
8 Joining Forces for Families
16 Cooling Center
38 St. Vincent DePaul
27 Dane County / Job Center
4 My family doctor
6 Tellurian ReachOut
5 Veteran’s Administration (VA)
9 Community Center(s)
2 My children’s school
55 Luke House
6 local Police Department
7 Other (please write in):
Did not seek help
Walworth Human Services
Green County Homeless shelter
I was in Minneapolis and I went to Mary’s Place
I went to the hospital first
Started in Janesville WI, Rock Co
6. When contacting the above, did you speak with someone: (Mark all that apply)
166 In person
111 On the phone
19 Email or website
6 Other (please write in):
Did not contact the above services
God in prayer
Stayed at shelter
Filled out application for shelter Porchlight
Wife via email or text message
7. We want to know what help is/was hard to find (Mark all that apply):
20 Emergency Shelter (Family)
2 Emergency Shelter (Youth)
38 Emergency Shelter (Single Adult)
13 Food Stamps
12 Emergency Shelter (Couple/No kids)
54 Employment help
47 Dental services
31 Help getting medication
32 Medical care
36 getting Medical Assistance
5 Applying for W-2
37 Applying for SSI / SSDI
23 Mental Health services
7 Drug or Alcohol Treatment
71 Lockers / personal storage
47 A convenient place to get mail
11 Other (please write in):
All of the above is easy to find
A phone to make and get personal phone calls
Easy to apply
Loss of vision in left eye
Transportation – more bus tickets
Shelter – for single families (moms and kids)
Luggage, baggage, totes for carrying things
A way to generate income for transportation to look for work
8. What is the best way for you to get in touch with services? (Mark all that apply)
146 Call during business hours
49 Call agency 24/7
61 Call and leave a message
94 Visit during business hours
28 Visit agency 24/7
6 Other (please write in):
Depending, in searching for services, I network
9. Would a single phone number for all services help you?
Please explain your response:
You have to go through a lot of red tape listening to a computer for a ½ hour before you actually get to talk to a human being
Different services, different results
A single number would help, maybe like 2-1-1
I struggle with phone calls as I am partially deaf
To make it easier for the people who help me
Need a number to reach these programs, not nine million different ones!
I would put all the things people need in one place
The reason is so people and me knowing where to go and no confusion and immediate help.
It would be less stressful – homelessness is stressful enough
Every program should have its specific hotline number or call center!
So people with minute phones don’t have to use up their minutes calling multiple places
I don’t know
If phones were able to get a personal phone to use with unlimited minutes
Possibly it would mean you’re going to one place, possibly not, why is there only one place?
Yes, that way went to have to go through loops, ups and downs, looking/searching for help and emergency services
I have no need
Will direct caller to the right contact person!
If we don’t have one number to call and we only use people phone it is hard
For medical doctor to call me for health reasons, and for important messages for me to receive
You can talk one on one with them
No passing on to other person or put on hold
I need a phone to get to work
Because it would be convenient for me
One phone, one call
Always comes down to one on one contact. One size doesn’t fit all
I want to talk to everyone
211 is very helpful
Too many different numbers to call!
Too much run around
Takes cell phone minutes
It’s easier to get all my resources from one location
Everything in the same place
Get a faster response
One place to help everyone in need of all homeless and mental health people
Then all the help I needs would be done at one time
Just one number to remember
I don’t have a cell phone
Can’t get through and they don’t return phone calls
I wouldn’t have to remember a whole bunch of different numbers
We get a lot of run arounds
211 seems to be what you are talking about. My experience is the automated system for such a broad category is useless so I search elsewhere.
I could save what little money I do have
Cell phone is turned off, can’t pay the bill
No one service can accommodate all issues
Faster response to needs.
One number to contact me
More than one number helps to get through to somebody
Less numbers to keep track of or remember
Reduces the run around to get the help needed
Easy to contact
I have my own cell phone
This way we wouldn’t have to go to so many different places
211 has been a disappointment
I think it would help to a degree especially for those with limited phone use
As of yet, there is not number that you can call to get hooked up with all the services
Would not have so many numbers to deal with
Wouldn’t have to jump around and would be able to have to go to one place.
Wouldn’t have to worry about how I would get to all these places
It would help a lot to get what I need instead of going through multiple people
One person to get a hold of the services, all services
I need a cell phone for jobs to get a hold of me
Cause it’s a lot of places that help out, it more than one number
Consolidating services to one phone number would ensure that people are able to find all the services they need
My government phone only goes 100 minutes per month so it burns up my minutes quickly
If you can get through to a person to get the right contact
Joining services would make it easier for me and more convenient for to make multiple appointment in one location on one date
Because different places offer different things
One number to call, where you can be transferred to the best resource of your choice
10. Rate your comfort level in using a computer: (circle the best answer)
Very Comfortable (don’t need help) – 134
Somewhat comfortable (need help sometimes) – 95
Not comfortable (need help all of the time) – 63
Convenience, less overlap and confusion
Do not use a computer
11. Rate your access to a phone: (mark all that apply)
163 I have daily phone access
11 I have weekly phone access
19 My phone is usually off
37 I have an Obama phone
41 I use free phones @ agencies
32 I use my friend or family member’s phone
41 I don’t have phone access
6 Other (please write in):
I have a hard time using a cell phone
Personal cell phone, government phone
A cell phone has come in handy at a premium, that seems to be worth it to me
Obama phone – can’t use them without a address that is not the Hospitality House
Wife borrowed phone
Once in a while
12. What type of communication would you prefer to receive from programs? (Check all that apply)
44 In person
12 Email or website
For those that are at risk of homeless – answer questions #13-15
13. Where do you and/or your family currently live? Examples of streets that may be close to your home are listed below. (Choose only one answer)
6 Eastside (Darbo /N. Thompson)
0 Southside (Rimrock / Deer Valley)
0 Westside (Middleton)
4 Northside (Northport / Vera Ct)
0 Southwest (Badger / Park St.)
0 Fitchburg (Fish Hatchery)
17 Downtown (W & E Washington)
2 Near Westside (Raymond / Allied)
0 Sun Prairie
14. Why are you and/or your family currently at risk of being homeless? (Check all that apply)
0 Received a 5-day eviction notice for rent due
0 Received a 5-day eviction notice for other lease violations
0 Received a 14-day termination notice
2 Going to court with landlord
0 Received a non-renewal notice
3 Domestic violence
0 Conflict with landlord
1 Moved out of foster care
0 Conflict with neighbors
0 Apartment is not habitable to live in / won’t fix repairs
9 Can’t afford the rent
0 Other: security deposit_
3 Moving out- bad neighborhood
15. If you are behind on rent and/or being evicted for any other reason indicate why. (Check all that apply)
4 Lost a job / Hours cut
0 W-2 benefits decreased or cut off
0 Unauthorized guests
4 Can’t find a job
6 Used time limit on W-2 benefits
0 High bills or other expenses
9 Loud noise / disturbances
2 Other: __________________
16. What do you think will make using homeless services easier?
Better staff at the shelters.
A shelter run by people that care and are willing to understand what homelessness is all about (to learn). Be respectful. Ask questions!
Having better people working.
People to watch and monitor the bosses.
The people treat you like dirt, very disrespectful and how can you have a woman in charge at night of a men’s shelter
Humbleness, humanity, support, understanding
Put people in charge of homeless services who don’t hate homeless people
Better staff at shelters
Great people who know how to deal with people
If they act like they’re helping out of compassion and not just for monetary gain
Not having homeless people serve
Eliminate the power tripping displayed by some of the employees its very serious and some go way out to demoralize people. Some with whom have just had a bad turn in life and are really trying to get past it.
Getting to know the person better to see what will help he/she best
To take time to see what’s really going on with a person or the inside and what’s the real problem
Prayer for those, providing the services that they would depend on the champion lover of the universe (Jesus) for wisdom and compassion
A better way to talk to an individual!!!
People helping and talking to each others as human being and not prejudices because of our differences
If they would return your phone calls
Hire people who care because when going through this situation it is easier to have a kind compassionate person helping
By helping with issues that they don’t understand
Waiting lists and all day on hold, by the time I walk there too late to see anyone
Pay more attention to people’s needs instead of Domino’s and parlay cards.
At the men’s shelter we need to remove the people who are on power trips. Some use the fact that they work there to demoralize others. It is really sad that someone who works at a place like that and see the positions that people are in and they treat them like shit and if they try to defend their pride in any way, they are told to get out and sleep on the street. Preston works hard to make things work but a couple of his followers are total crap when he isn’t there.
A comfortable and understanding staff and a support group with knowledge and experience of what certain individuals are going through
Have people who care about helping the homeless, have better staff
They should treat people with more respect and let people know about things
Not enough counselors to help
24 hour travel available.
More bus passes
31 day bus pass for job searching
More bus passes
More bus tickets
Transportation. bus passes (30 day)
Transportation! Bus price is outrageous for me.
Better access to bus services (31 day pass)
Some people don’t have transportation to travel to different places (agencies). Homeless people are given one bus ticket with two rides. Those rides can go fast. One can’t do much with that.
Access to bus and/or cab services
Location of Services/Day Center/Central Services
Having it all in one area
If they were closer together
Keep it in a central point where feasible access.
A communications center (Homeless support)
Everything all in one location, downtown area
A downtown area open more hours and days, especially holidays when all things are closed.
I think the day shelter would be great for people to keep warm or cool until the night shelter opens
Stay open all day
Central call service
Having all resources available at one location
All services in one place
A day center that is opening would be very helpful
Day Shelter with access to showers and storage
If all services would be done at same time
Open day shelter
A place where all the information homeless people need are there, it can be a problem when a person has to travel around Madison to find help and information. It would be nice if there was just one place to go to, to get help and information.
Day shelter needs showers
I might get help I need all in one place hopefully
The homeless shelter is extremely overcrowded in the cold months when everyone has their days back. I would be nice to have a bigger facility.
Have somewhere to sleep, off the streets, 354 days a year and if the person is working 10 pm to 6 am have some place this person can go to sleep
Permanent sleeping spaces.
Day Center with people to help you
The men’s shelter has bed bugs.
No time limit for obtaining an ID
6 people in the shower on a busy day/night is not for me
Alcoholics allowed no matter what – No breathalyzers
Would like to come/go as I see fit
Open up earlier
Keeping it organized and clean
Location and hour
Open up earlier
Assign them a bed number rather than have them sleep from one bed to another every night.
Also, homeless people that have 2nd shift temp job should be allowed to sleep through 10 or 11 am and to exit the shelter then. How are you going to get on your feet if you are continually kicked out of the shelter unprepared by 5:30 am.
More resources to ease crowding and unsanitary conditions
Too much overcrowding
Being kicked out
Storage of stuff
Lockers to keep stuff safe.
A place to keep bags during the day.
Locker access too limited for me
Storage of gear to look for work
Madison needs to offer more shelter and service for single women.
Overnight shelters for women. (single) there’s more overnight shelters for men this has been a continuing problem for years, what’s up with that!!! I know this to be true personally being homeless with my 2 boys (xxx and xxx) I got more help being a family than now (being) alone. I get more help and ideas from other homeless people (men mainly) than 211 or other business groups.
More access for single women
Availability for couples and/or not being turned away.
I would like to see more services for single families with no kids
Safety, drug use, medical attention/education of staff
More bathrooms around
Phones & Computers
Have more public phone to use
Phone and computer access
Rather than call several numbers. It be easier for phone number and limited the time being used. The time could be for anything, such as a job search, etc.
To get an Obama phone
Computer 24/7 access
Shelter Time Limits
During colder days there should not be a limit on days at shelter.
Having more days in the Salvation Army for women in the winter
Having more than 60 days at a time to get a job and save up enough money to obtain housing and be able to pay first month’s rent and deposit, which is almost an impossible task. But can be achieved, but very difficult.
Let us stay in for the winter.
Eliminate the 60 days stay at the men’s shelter. There are people who are trying to get out of homeless for good. It’s not that easy as people think.
We need more than 60 days to stay in the only single women’s shelter in Madison
More Services/Access to Services
Have more shelter for homeless people
Have more places to go in the winter
Direct access (phone apps) 24/7 help
All agencies had all contact numbers and access to the paperwork and able to contact from agencies.
Plain and simple – EASIER ACCESS
Flexible rules that let people get to use all your services
There also should be more than Porchlight to help with a single men’s shelter.
More services provided
More places to go
Need more services/more help
I think homeless services could be easier if there was access to more shelters (more room available) Also, stop having so many stipulations on getting help from agencies that are there to help the homeless.
Ability to be place on several waiting list for vacancy
Having more resources
More support and resources
More shelters for women with children
Help finding long-term housing
Help finding a landlord that will work with you. Calling many (MANY!) numbers! No call back #! Find a landlord – then they change their mind when a better “prospect” comes along.
The construction of a men’s YMCA
Good paying jobs so services are less needed
If they help people get jobs and move faster
More Job Update lists
I really don’t know what to say for this answer. I just need to get a job so I can make a deal on an apartment or something
Stay working and go to school and help out whenever I can
To make it easier for homeless single men and women to be able to take care of their medical needs, to be able to take care of finding an apartment.
Don’t really know
Investigate and dismantle Porchlight, Inc. The conditions of the men’s shelter it operates are abysmal; the “services” conducted at its so-called Hospitality House are basically a myth. Finally, its labyrinthian structure of operations makes it namely impossible to get an answer to any but the simplest of questions. Like any monopoly, it operates without oversight and seems to exist only to perpetuate itself.
I think most of the services for my homelessness are fairly accessible
Right now I don’t know what to say.
Not sleeping in the cold
Assign each homeless person a case manager that would put pressure on him or her to seek employment or treatment.
More places to stay and more employment opportunities
A good idea
What would make my life easier, in the utilization of homeless services? (Was it too painful to ask? Does it set a bad precedent?) Having showers, lockers, access to free shoes/clothing, access to food/soap, shampoo, dental floss, computer access, overnight month-long, year-long storage, internet access, a cell phone, a place to sleep, a legal place to sleep. A shelter form the rain and cold. A bus pass.
A place we can go to and stay dry and warm or get in the shelter at 5:00 or 6:00
I don’t know, maybe stability for one
Getting more help
Staying warm to do what you are supposed to do to work with people and things will work themselves out.
I have no hope
More public contact, respect, more services, etc
I don’t know
I think I am comfortable with the homeless service
If the process would be faster
Talk to one another
If you put an end to it (homelessness)
Just make it better
Help one another
Not being homeless
If you could find the people out in the area
It helps because I don’t have to sleep outside any more
I don’t know. I have my own problems not really worried about others
Get them a place to stay
Hopefully this survey will help
Having better services will help a lot.
You guys are great, thank you
I don’t think it will be easier, I just don’t have no place for my children and I to go, so I go to the warming house, where we are provided with beds, food, shelter and showers.
Provide resources available to those who are in need of these or those services
If people followed the programs
This is a new experience where as so far all services to my knowledge have been easily found and pleasantly accessible
Making money and depositing it into a bank account while living at the shelter
I think people need to understand that we are the same as everyone else except that we don’t have a home.
The elimination of poverty (if that is possible)
If you show up here the help is overwhelming
Open for 24 hours a day
I need access to my p.o. box
I don’t know right now
I don’t know how this all works, but I am so very thankful for the people who are here to help
Weed out the drug and alcohol users from the service centers
If there wasn’t any (homelessness). But since that is not a reality, government doing more for home than foreign.
150 Male 44 Female 0 Other
You tell me, what do we need to improve our shelter system.
Up next, the responses from the agencies, their polices and other information they provided. Tomorrow . . .
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