Yeah, that’s a bit of a desperate plea. Last Friday we found out $95,000 (40% of our budget) was proposed to be cut from the Dane County Budget. Many of you have written emails and letters in support of our services and we appreciate that, but we need your help on Tuesday! Or, to write emails and letters if haven’t already done so! Tuesday is a very important hearing and we need your support!
Alliant Energy Center, 6:00. September 3rd.
Proposed Cuts to Tenant Resource Center Budget Would Leave Over 4,500 Renters and 50 Agencies and Their Clients Without Services
In the midst of a rental housing crisis, Dane County Human Services Director Lynn Green has proposed eliminating all funding for the Housing Help Desk and other services run by the Tenant Resource Center in her 2014 budget, with no clear plan to spend that $95,000K on other programs. This decision couldn’t come at a worse time for Dane County residents: The rental market has a historically low vacancy rate of 2% (national average 8.6%) and this fall Wisconsin will see more tenant rights being removed for the third time in two years. TRC has had this contract for 15 years; it makes up 40% of TRC’s total budget and funds 100% of the Housing Help Desk office in the Dane County Job Center, where 4,500+ mostly low-income renters get help finding and maintaining affordable housing every year. The Housing Help Desk also publishes many free housing lists in its office and on its website, including a weekly Housing Vacancy List that organizes 200-400 rental ads in Dane County. These valuable resources are the only ones of their kind, used by thousands of renters and 50+ service providers and all their clients each month. Without this funding, it would also mean an end to housing counseling outside the City of Madison and all of TRC’s services in Spanish. TRC may also have to close the Dane County Housing Mediation Service which successfully prevents 400 evictions each year, and if staff dwindles to three people we will not be able to leave the two offices (1202 Williamson St and Campus) to do statewide Housing Law Seminars for landlords, service providers, and law enforcement which brings in about $20,000 to the agency annually.
The reasons Green gave for the cuts focus on her misreading of a new pilot program the City of Madison has begun with Community Action Coalition, which she claims will duplicate Housing Help Desk services. The coordinated intake pilot project by CAC focuses on those who are already homeless, offering assessment and case management to 200 people who have literally been homeless for fewer than 6 months; 400 others will be given intake and referrals for their housing needs, many of them intended for the TRC’s Housing Help Desk if it remains open. No agency is ready to replace the Housing Help Desk’s resources or has its in depth staff knowledge of tenant/landlord law to help clients help themselves without case management, for example by learning how to get a security deposit back so they don’t need financial assistance from another agency to move into a new apartment.
Green’s proposal is the first step in the Dane County budget process. On Tuesday, September 3rd at 6pm at the Alliant Energy Center in Mendota Room 1 of the Exhibition Hall, County Executive Joe Parisi will be holding a listening session about the budget he will then propose to the County Board the first week in October. Comments can also be submitted via e-mail to: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org. At Tuesday’s Homeless Issues Committee meeting, they recommended that Parisi restore the funding to Tenant Resource Center that is still in the department budget but listed as “TBD.” They also unanimously recommended with on abstention that because there has been a 10% increase in homelessness from 2011 to 2012 that they fund vital homeless services, including but not limited to the day resource center and restrooms. They expressed concern that we not pit the needs of persons without homes against the needs of low-income renters. To save the Housing Help Desk, Joe Parisi has to reject Green’s proposal and accept the Committee’s recommendation or the County Board would have to restore the funding in their budget that they vote on in November.
A few email and testimony tips
1. Attacking Lynn Green just makes her look like a victim. Just ignore the fact that this looks like retaliation because of my personal efforts to organize non-profit leadership to advocate around the budget through United for Funding, that I camped out on the front lawn of the Human Services building, my strong advocacy for things like lockers, restrooms, showers, reform to the shelter system and a day resource center, my strong advocacy for clients who are not receiving services (one of whom died – another I’m surprised hasn’t) and all my work with Occupy. Don’t give her the satisfaction of being the victim here and don’t let her think that people will back off on their advocacy because of thinly veiled threats like this.
2. When emailing, including your address so they know whose constituent you are!
3. Tell personal stories of how TRC has helped you or your friends or family or clients or your agency.
4. Tell them (county board and Parisi) what impact there would be if we didn’t have services available in Spanish, or the mediation program went away or the housing lists and other services were removed.
5. Tell them you support the Homeless Issues Committee recommendation and that you want County Executive Joe Parisi to decide that the funding should be restored to the Tenant Resource Center. email@example.com
6. County Board Supervisors will be acting based on the budget Parisi proposes in the first week of October, but its never too early to start educating them about these issues. Best to send personal emails to supervisors you know and again, include your address. Contact info for county board supervisors is here. firstname.lastname@example.org goes to all supervisors.
7. You can also call, or talk to them at the various rallies and sing alongs and Labor Fest and Taste of Madison or anyplace else you might see them this weekend.
8. Feel free to just register in support of restoring TRC funding or against the department proposed budget and put a comment about restoring Tenant Resource Center or Housing Help Desk funding. Written comments usually get read out loud, one sentence is enough! Just let them know why you are there. Or, feel free to speak, you get three minutes!
9. Watch this blog, facebook event and tenantresourcecenter.org for more updates over the weekend. Sorry this has come up so fast and with such poor timing, but that is always how the county treats the public testimony on this portion of the budget – you might ask them to move it back a week in the future so it doesn’t fall on the first day of school for many affected and the day after Labor Day when many are swamped catching up from summer holidays.
10. CC: me on any emails you send so that we can see who is responding and what they are saying. Thanks! email@example.com – all one word, no dot.
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