So, this is Director of Dane County Human Services Lynn Green’s explanation of why she recommended defunding the Tenant Resource Center. It’s disturbingly inaccurate. I have audio, contracts and other documentation of the details of all this, probably too much detail for some, but due to my obvious conflict of interest in “reporting” on this topic, I felt as much back up material as possible was necessary. Obviously, I am biased here – but also, obviously, there are some gross errors in her statements that just can’t be denied. Most annoying thing about this blog post, I tried to do it at work Friday and after 5 hours of working on it I got about as much work done as if I would have just gotten up an hour earlier. These are my comments in this color (supposed to be purple but often looks pink.)
EXPLANATION OF BUDGET FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS SERVICES FOR 2014
First of all, here is the audio, in case anyone thinks I might have gotten something wrong.
I don’t always type an exact transcript – especially when there is audio I can post. I leave out a lot of surplus language and just get the intent they are conveying. No one has ever complained to me about it – but just in case.
Chair Michael Basford asks Green to explain her budget recommendations around housing and homelessness in the budget.
Lynn Green says that the development of the budget is done in the context of department priorities, mandates, difficult choices were made and they didn’t single out this area for what appears to every one to be a difficult choice. Their budget was hard to create, they were not given any additional revenues. They had millions of dollars of cuts to make up for so the budget includes no increases for the living wage, no cost of living increases for Purchase of Service Agencies (Whatever, there never is, she doesn’t even try. TRC funding has been as follows: 1998 = $98,000 and more recently $100,613 2006, $101,623 2007, $101,623 +$5,000 Eviction Prevention funds 2008, $101,436 + $5,000EP 2009, $99,490 +$5,000EP 2010, $99,490 +$5,000EP 2011, $90,000 +$5,000EP 2012, $90,000 +$5,000EP 2013), there is a $285,000 cut in residential AODA (alcohol and drug) treatment, there was a cut in senior meal funding, and she just wants to put this in context in case people think they had extra funds to do something. The failure she is talking about is that Parisi and her did not annualize the day center funding that the county board added (if they had $30,000 for 2 months, they should budget that times 6 or $180,000 for the whole year). I believe many county board supervisors thought they would. Also, the money that has magically appeared to provide Warming Center activities isn’t in the budget again. It just seems they didn’t try very hard to fund the day center and it appears, for whatever reason, that this isn’t a priority for them, they know it is a priority for the county board and they are just leaving it up to them. Given that context, they have a hand out (Dane County housing and homelessness budget 2014, that shows what they did in this budget area.
- $141,605 for families – Shelter and Housing First Stoughton ($50,000 goes to The Road Home)
- $50,304 for single men – Drop in Shelter at Hospitality House (Duplicates day resource center, why wasn’t that cut to pay for the day resource center?)
- $66,121 for single men – Emergency Shelter
- $25,039 for single men – Housing Services
- $635,130 for single women and families – Shelter
- $97,500 for single women and families – Warming Shelter
- $170,600 for single women and families – Food and Shelter Vouchers
The Road Home
- $18,796 for families for Housing Services
Community Action Coalition of So WI
- $20,000 Emergency Food Services
- $128,726 Family Support Services (housing) Perhaps this is also a duplication of services with the city?
$30,000 Homeless contingency fund
$95,000 Housing Homeless Services TBD
TOTAL = $1,484,821
Carry forward from 2013 Capital Budget Indicates they don’t plan to do anything before the end of the year
$600,000 purchase/renovate day resource center
$500,000 plan/acquire SRO facility
TOTAL = $1,100,000
She says what you will see is flat funding, there is no reduction in any of the existing contracts, except for the money for services from the Tenant Resource Center. (Mic troubles) She says again that what they see is a continuation of the services except for the TRC including the shelter system and a continuation of the homeless contingency fund which is the day resource center. And the elimination of the services that we purchase from the Tenant Resource Center and that money is put into a “to be determined” line for a funding priority to be determined by policy makers. I don’t know if you want me to go on and talk about how that decision was made.
Basford says she can elaborate.
Green says that they heard a lot of reasons from the speakers, and opinions rendered that are valuable, but she will tell them how the staff made the decision. “We believe that the Tenant Resource Center services that are provided are extremely valued and important to the community” but (it’s always the but) we believe that services were developed this year and will continue next year to provide these services and we need to transfer those funds into a “to be determined” line to meet one of the critical needs that we believe we were unable to do. These funds were not cut and eliminated but redirected to needs that are not met. She wants to reiterate that many of the services that the Tenant Resource Center does that you heard about tonight are not funded by the county and will continue. Basically what you heard, and the TRC staff said this, they use the money to staff the housing help desk at the Job Center. Statewide training are not funded under our contract and should continue. Our decision was made, it was a difficult decision, but it was made based on our belief that the services will be provided by another means. In 2013 a community group developed with the city a one stop shop coordinated intake system for homeless persons and people at risk of becoming homeless. The city injected $146,900 or $147,000 new dollars and after a competitive process that is going to Community Action Coalition. I know we are hearing interpretations of what they will do but I rely on the contract the city shared with me and the discussions they city had with me about what the expectations are and what the proposal was that CAC put in. In that proposal (CAC Coordinated Intake and Assessment Proposal – Narrative) they talk about 5 components. In those components they talk about a highly publicized hotline and email for information and referral, mini assessments, one on one sessions with housing case managers, shared data systems coordination, their proposal indicates that their services will be done in Spanish and in Hmong. And that they are open to be out in the community, including at the Job Center and the Housing Help Desk. (Wait! What?! I’ll be darned, it really does say that they will provide their services in the community at the Housing Help Desk. Why would they feel the need to do that if we are providing the same services?!) We, in addition, the CDBG Commission has awarded CAC $25,000 to do housing counseling outside the City of Madison. They also have reason to believe that other funding sources will continue their funding of the Tenant Resource Center and the valuable services that we do not fund. I want to just focus in on what the county funds, is information and referral at the Housing Help Desk at the Dane County Job Center. A recent survey that was facilitated by the Homeless Services Consortium when people were asked “what is the most useful service you received” when seeking housing assistance, the Housing Help Desk did not rank high on that list. People pointed out a number of other places that they get these services from. I personally helped draft that survey, helped facilitate homeless volunteers circulating that survey and hand calculated the results for over 230 responses – that is not what the survey asked, please see below. Plus, we ranked higher than CAC.) They weren’t saying that people who used it did not get a valuable service, that is not the comment, there were a number of services that were used more frequently. In addition, we continue to hope, sooner rather than later, that there will be a day resource center and that there will be housing and homeless services there (those services were going to be TRC, they used our lists and materials all last winter) and CAC has already talked about being part of that effort. They have set up the Job Center lobby so that it is staffed with county employees who will help with information and referral and help get information from the computers. Lastly, she wants to put this in context of how they do their budgets, making hard choices and critical decisions and prioritizing. We have listened very closely to what the homeless community has told us we really, really need and we were unable to find additional money for youth, lockers, porta-potties, a number of things, including the day resource center. She was unable to find more than $30,000 in the department for the operations of a day resource center and we all know we are going to need a lot more than that. So the thought of putting $146,900 more in information and referral, and having no additional money to put towards actual real services for people with housing and homeless needs did not seem like a good utilization of scarce resources and our decision was to put it in the “to be determined” line and hopefully it will be used to fund a critical need that the homeless community and the policy makers will identify. That, very briefly, is the rational for the decision for why they did what they did.
QUESTIONS FROM AND ANSWERS TO THE COMMITTEE
Heidi Wegleitner asks why there is $36,000 less in the program area in total, because the money used last year for the day resource center wasn’t continued?
Green says that she can explain why it appears to you that there is less money in the budget, that is because (there is less money in the budget) it was one-time only money put in for Porchlight Winter Shelter Contract and that money was taken out of the base. So, they did not reduce funding in the homeless area. (even tho there is $36,000 less than last year.)
Wegleitner says we have almost $1.5M in here and this is all GPR? No State or Federal Pass through?
Green says yes, they are not a housing or homeless mandated department, they do have a lot of mandates that the department does in the area of child abuse, elderly abuse and other mandates, but this is not something we are mandated to do and we get no funding to do it so it is all local GPR.
Wegleitner asks if any of the activities in the budget relate to homelessness prevention or eviction prevention, from what she can tell, she can’t tell.
Green says that they started a Housing First initiative within the last couple years to try to address that. The role that the county has played in doing this is basically that they fund the shelter system. And the city and the housing authorities have basically funded or done work in the housing areas and eviction and foreclosure. They do have some money in their budget for foreclosure prevention that they contract out with the Dane County Housing Authority, that is not in this part of the budget, it is in the administration budget, so there is housing foreclosure work that they do. Traditionally their focus is the sheltering system and the housing entities that have funding and expertise earmarked to do this work, pick that work up.
Wegleitner says that when we voted to make recommendations to the Comprehensive Plan and in some of the other discussions, we thought that eviction prevention, homelessness prevention was a really effective tool the county should be engaged in. She understands that we provide the bulk of shelter services tho. Are there any guarantees that the services provided by CAC or some of these other places that they would be providing these services should TRC not be funded for the Housing Help Desk, that they would not be providing the same level of services. It seems that the TRC has a lot of expertise, this is my area of law and I ask them questions on local stuff. I don’t see that replicated, is there any quality in terms of the level of training or expertise that these other providers would have?
Green says that she wants to keep reiterating that what the county buys is the Help Desk. (That is not what the 2013 Tenant Resource Center contract says – start at page 20) So, do I know? No. If I said I guarantee, that would not be true. What I can say is I certainly hope CAC is an extremely reputable organization, as is Tenant Resource Center, that is not what this is about. And we’re essentially diverting $95,000 in an area that almost $147,000 of new money was injected into. CAC is extremely valuable, her JFF workers talk about them all the time, about the housing work they do and they have people assigned to our JFF offices. I know they are extremely conscientious and I’m sure they will do their very best to provide the information and referral that is being done and there is certainly more money in the end being funneled into that area.
Wegleitner asks if the money is intended for a broader use, some of what the Housing Help Desk does.
Green says she is talking about the Dane County money and the Dane County money if you look at the contract, is focused on counseling on the telephone service and the Housing Help Desk.
Wegleitner asks about the CAC money, the money that is filling the hole, isn’t coordinated intake and referral supposed to be provided to every single homeless services program or agency, that seems a bigger broader thing than indepth housing counseling and homelessness prevention.
Green says she has the contract (This is the scope of services in an otherwise boiler plate contract Exhibit 1), she has talked with the city about their expectations and if you read the contract you would be lead to believe that they are going to do, they have three goals, shelter diversion, homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing. Their services will include landlord/tenant mediation, conflict resolution, assisting groups to maintain their current housing, they are going to have a hotline Monday – Friday 8 – 4:30, a well publicized email address, she could go on but she is not sure that they want her to, its very much, if not entirely what we purchase from the Tenant Resource Center.
Nick Zweifel asks about the Homeless Services to be determined. That is $95,000, that is from the TRC, that is going to come from that?
Green says totally, their money, dollar for dollar is still in the homeless budget, and it is put in a “to be determined line” for the community, this committee and the policy makers, to determine what the needs are.
Zweifel says that he is guessing that this is put up there to hopefully run or use if we help run the day center once we actually buy it or to use it this winter if we don’t have something purchased. It’s a line the policy makers may have to dip into to make sure we actually have something available this winter.
Green says they wanted that decision to be made by the people that heard what the needs are, we’ve heard lots of valuable unmet critical needs, like she said, she identified some of them, services for homeless youth, porta-potties, vans in the community to transport people to resources, she has heard alot and they were not presumptuous enough to pick one (but presumptuous enough to cut something without understanding it?) We put it in there so there was resources available, when we have had these discussion in the past, what people have not talked about at all, is that there is only $30,000 in her budget (She knows there is an additional $30,000 in the County Board office budget that is intended for this use, county board supervisors and myself told her that hours before she said this to the committee, which is why she so carefully said that) to run a resource center. The proposal we have is $250,000 and I will tell you, like in the discussion of the MARC location, there would need to be a lot of resources added to that proposal to make that location work. For example there isn’t a van, there isn’t transportation, so there is a big gap in the reality of opening a resource center in this community, someone will have to find money. (Lynn Green has a $250,000,000 budget, $65 million of general tax dollars – I think the expectation is that within that budget, she was supposed to find the money) This was my best effort to try to find money for people to meet these unmet needs, feeling as tho money has been infused to meet the needs under that contract.
Zweifel says she hit what he wanted, he asked the question for the gallery behind you because I wanted to make it clear that these two items, I wanted to put that on us instead of you because we are going to have to decide and we’re going to have some very interesting conversations over the next month or two over what the best services are this winter for this, so you answered it and I appreciate this.
Wegleitner says that this is slightly unusual to zero out a program in the budget process, if there was concerns about not meeting a certain priority or another provider being able to provide the services isn’t that something better addressed in an RFP process or reapplication. What has been the process?
Green says it is not unusual. They have eliminated, over the years, unfortunately because of priorities and funding issue a number of contracted services and it is always very difficult, but we had a number of choices, we felt like we needed to change with systems as they change and they felt really strongly, at the level this is occurring this need is going to be met by another new infusion of a resource that we needed to change. Over the years we have looked at things like cutting the entire system 5% to get reductions out of it and I don’t feel like the system can take an across the board reduction at this point. So we honestly believe that this service will remain in the community and will be provided through other resources. So its not unusual, we cut $285,000 out of residential AODA treatment because of a shift in treatment, because of treatment readiness beds that we have in place. There are a number of major cuts in this budget and redirection of money as trends change, as best practice models change, so this is not unusual for us.
Wegleitner asks if in any area of the human services budget – and believe me, I would rather increase your budget and take from other places like the sheriff – but they are not here, so I am asking you about human services, is there any area where a program or line was increased or department increase or new initiative started with GPR money this year.
Green says there are not a lot of new initiatives, her budget summary talks about them, what they tried to do was try to preserve funding within systems as much as possible, there is a new initiative taken from existing money in the AODA system to try to align our services into a dual diagnosis best practices model and that is something substance abuse and mental health services have been working at for a long time. Its not new money, and its not GPR. There are two new positions proposed at Badger Prairie with earmarked Medicaid money that they earn, so that is not GPR. Let me think about it some more, I want to give you the truth, but I can’t think of any right here.
Wegleitner asks about increases in DD?
Green says that the DD system is taking in the SDS grants a 2.64% reduction, there is an increase in the system to fund high school grads, 5 years ago I tried not to do that and I don’t think I will try that again in my career, otherwise there are annualizations of existing increases (so why no annualization of the day resource center money?) We did not expand the initiative to to address wait list issues and in order to fund that they are taking that 2.64% cut in existing services that SDS does.
Basford asks about the shelter and Housing Fist program in Stoughton, that is a renewal, how many years has that been?
Green says two years. And that was just a small initiative $141,605 for families – Shelter and Housing First Stoughton ($50,000 goes to The Road Home) we wanted to demonstrate that we believe in permanent housing and not just sheltering and we were able to redirect some money to start that. I believe it was two years ago, we have unfortunately been unable to expand anything in that regard.
Basford asks what the funds are used for? Rental Assistance?
Greens says she is looking at Tim because he handles these contracts.
Tim Saterfield says that it is rental assistance and case management. There are 5 people involved, 5 slots involved. Yes, they serve 5 families with $141,605. TRC serves 6,000 people with $95,000. I think the actual first tenancies were July of 2012, the program got up in running about a year that they cycled through.
Basford asks if they go through their budget, are they spending the money that is allocated?
Green and Saterfield both say yes. Green says that they have asked for increases.
Basford asks if there has been any exploration of doing this in other municipalities.
Green asks if he means housing first, Basford says yes, she says no because we don’t have any money.
Steve Schooler says that they actually have a small program in Sun Prairie that is funded, it is very small, it is 4 or 5 slots that are funded, for about $30 – 40,000. Wow, what is the difference between the two programs?! One costs 3 to 4 times more than the other.
Green says United Way pretty extensively funds Housing First.
Leland Pan asks about a survey result.
Green says a survey was done, she is not the best to speak to it. Saterfield says it was through the Homeless Services Consortium. Green says they asked users of the services a number of questions like which service have you used the most. No, not at all, check out the survey for yourself. Which services have you found the most helpful to you, one of the questions was if you looked for assistance who did you contact and/or where did you go. It was just pointing out that the Housing Help Desk (9 + 14 TRC + 27 Job Center) ranked pretty low on where the – it wasn’t a ton of people who responded, but ranked fairly low in terms of where people go, the majority went to 211 (28) or they went to Joining Forces for Families (8) or they went to DAIS (3) or St. Vincent de Pauls (38).
Pan as where people were taking the survey, how were they found?
Saterfield says homeless people in the community.
Pan asks if homeless people came up to them and surveyed them?
Saterfield says those surveys were distributed through the day resource center and a number of places like that.
Green says that she brought that up only to mention that CLEARLY the community, the people who use these services, do know there are other places they can go to get these services and they can go there. That is the only reason I mentioned it.
Ronnie Barbett says that you came here and pointed out the limitations, if there is going to be any increases or money that comes out of the sky, where would it come from?
Green says you would have to look at the policy makers, it is important that you know I am given set guidelines, I can’t raise the cap on property taxes, I can’t generate more GPR, what we are are pros at are generating other revenue when ever possible. Like collections or MA revenue for treatment. We try to come up with new money, unfortunately in this area we don’t have any ability to generate outside revenues like we try to do in other areas which will replace reductions. I can’t generate more GPR, I hate to put the pressure on my policy makers but I create budgets in the guidelines I am given with the best proposal I can and then they take it from there.
Wegleitner says that brings up a really good point, isn’t it a problem that we don’t have anyone writing grants or looking for money in this area of county government.
Green says that she would hope that the Dane County Housing Authority, that doesn’t come up in discussions very often, would be doing things like that. She hopes, she doesn’t know. She CLEARLY doesn’t know. Wait til Rob Dicke, Executive Director of the Dane County Housing Authority finds out its his job to write grants to get Dane County Human Services funding for homeless and housing services – I’m sure that will be a surprise to him! They have the ability to leverage housing money. My department is not a housing department. And Dane County Housing Authority is not a Department of the county! So, since there is no department, I think we may have found our problem. Never has been, we do the best we can and basically our role has been the sheltering system. Over all these many years she has been working really hard to coordinate with the City, with the Housing Authority, with the Dane County Housing Authority, because I do think they have ways of leveraging resources be it vouchers or HUD money or whatever, but my department can’t do that.
Ronnie Barbett asks about the Emerging Opportunities Fund.
Green is quick to point out that is the city. She is encouraging people, she has put out numerous emails to people in the homeless services network to say look at this money, get an application in, see what you can do to get it. Funny, I just searched my email and I have no such emails from her or her assistant – perhaps I was left off the list?
Barbett asks about storage and storage fees, is it possible to get funding for that?
Green says that it is city, she can’t comment on that. Green hopes applications will go in to the city to meet the unmet needs.
Barbett asks if they are due in October, Basford says Sept. 6th. Green says the money will be there in October, the application process is pretty good, its not complicated, and its pretty straightforward.
Barbett asks if it possible to throw in proposal for that? Green says yes. Barbett says that you have not suggested that any time that you have known us.
Barbett says I know you are busy. You know we were looking for storage.
Silence from Green. I believe the homeless man on the homeless issues committee just caught the County Director of Human Services in a bald face lie! Awkward.
Marsha Rummel says she has been looking at the storage issues with city staff. She didn’t think about telling everyone about this pot of money. But there is a pot of money.
Basford says that there are a lot of agencies that are doing these kinds of things that are applying for that.
Barbett says that most of the money is going to shelter, that is the Salvation Army and Porchlight because that is what is in place and has been for a long period of time and CAC comes under that same jurisdiction, they are your go-to people, but I was at three meetings where Brenda Konkel was making a point that the same services as CAC was getting the $146,000 intake and assessment for was basically they provided that, CAC didn’t deny it or argue against it, Mr. OKeefe said they were in the running because there was a proposal, but
Lynn Green interrupts. How rude, she didn’t interrupt anyone else except the one homeless person on the homeless issues committee. Again, I am not passing the buck, but that was a city decision.
Barbett says he is just asking, later on, now, it seems the money was taken out of their pockets so that they are not going to have it, they did not see that coming, I don’t think they saw that coming. Could they go to the emerging funds?
Green says she does not see why not.
Rummel says she does not see why not, but also, it is an existing thing and its hard to argue its a new thing, and part of the goal of it was to help emerging issues get addressed, its a dilemma we are all facing through the discipline of less money, this is how it gets played out, its desperate.
Basford says between now and the budget they will have a lot of meetings. Certainly with what they have before us they would be derelict in their duty if they did not make some recommendations for our elected officials. If anyone would like to make any motions or recommendations this would be a good time for those, or they could do this at a future meeting as well.
Rummel says it is not her budget, but in the carry forward section, did you all look at putting those together and leveraging funds if you put them together with the day resource center. Is that something that you considered.
Wegleitner says it has entered conversations, but the day center is the real immediate need and the SRO is taking longer to figure out as far as the RFP process, that won’t solve our day center for this winter, but it has been discussed for down the road. It is not a part of the RFPs that have gone out for the day center or the SROs.
Schooler points out it is capital money, not operations. He says he doesn’t know how that fits.
Rummel says it is just how her head works.
Basford says that we have seen how deliberate the process is on the city side with their strategy on affordable housing, we saw that when we had Mr. Wachter and O’Keefe here last time, he isn’t sure if it is as easy as it sounds, but if he is wrong, he hopes that can be considered.
Rummel says that she has been trying to figure out how to get it all together, but winter is coming, there is a short term and a long term window, how can we leverage our assets to get all our pots of money growing together.
Wegleitner says that there have been discussion about the city and county getting together with their resources, but for these purposes, with the budget we are looking at, we are looking at what we can do for this winter.
Zwiefel says he appreciates that they are seeking to make recommendations, but he is on the Health and Human Needs Committee and Lynn is it true there is a new RFP going out with different guidelines.
Green says yes, she thought that was the next item on the agenda.
Zweifel says his point is that we are looking at the $30K and the $95K and he would have to abstain from any vote, especially with an RFP going out, there are a lot of little thing going on that are going to happen really quickly and I just feel like I’d have to wait that out at least until next week, there are some things that might happen that could totally change the dynamic of that. Even a recommendation for how I feel that money should be diverted. So, just putting that out there now.
Wegleitner is concerned that we have – that we are pitting homelessness prevention against immediate needs with this budget proposal, or staff is, and I think that its not the work of this committee to figure out where the money should come from, but its not acceptable to cut the needs of tenants to fund a really compelling need for a day center or the ability to go to the bathroom. Or have personal storage. I would move that this committee recommend that day center funding and funding for immediate needs be a part of the budget and that it does not come on the backs of other community partners like Housing Help Desk.
Basford says that perhaps a more useful motion might be to simply make a recommendation for that allocation to . . .
Wegleitner disagrees, she thinks there should be more money going to homeless services, she knows it is not easy to find it, but this committee should not settle for, when we have a 10% increase in the number of families being served in shelter, that we’re going to abandon homelessness prevention efforts funded by the county, because there are other compelling needs, I think we need to tell the policy makers that they need to find the money and they need to prioritize.
Schooler seconds it for purposes of discussion to the extent that can be made into a motion. He only has one question. We’ve got this, Lynn Green has said that unless you increase revenue, you’re going to have to cut something, and I think that is the bottom line of all of this. So I guess the real question is, for the county board supervisors, are you willing to increase the General Purpose Revenue to make this happen. That is the issue. I don’t know where the city is at with all of this, but at this point a good piece of it is on the county shoulders for whatever reasons.
Wegleitner says that can be a friendly amendment. She says we have limitations, we can only increase so much, but if there are efficiencies, if we find other money to the extent we do have a minimal increase as authorized under Act 10, it should be prioritized for homelessness.
Schooler says that is the only way he sees that working, he is not sure what the motion is, but he thinks he agrees with it.
Ulysses Williams asks if the $95,000 is cut from the Tenant Resource Center and we have a motion not to use it for other services, shouldn’t it go back to the Tenant Resource Center?
Schooler says that is his understanding of what the amendment is.
Zwiefel says they need clear wording, everyone seems to agree. Wegleitner is working on it and Basford takes that time to speak.
Basford says that he wants to say a few things about the TRC’s Housing Help Desk and how as a person who has to interact with that service a fair amount for his day job, when I see this number of people served at 4,489 I would have to guess that about 500 of them, if not directly referred by me, are directly referred by somebody in my office at Housing Initiatives, I get so many calls every day for people who are asking for services, most of the people who call do not qualify, my silo is rather thin, there are a lot of people who call that do not qualify. People who are in housing and are in need of a little assistance, people who may qualify for another program, etc. Several times a day I am telling that person to call the Housing Help Desk between 10 and 2. And a lot of these folks are homeless, in danger of becoming homeless or in the 82% that are low-income or very low-income. For their household they are making less than 50% of Dane County Median Income. 37% making less than 30% of the Dane County Median Income. When I bring someone into the rental assistance program that they administer, and we are not putting them into a place they own and operate, we tell them to “go out into the rental market of Dane County at its 1.6% vacancy rating, best of luck to you.” The first thing I will tell them to do is go to the Housing Help Desk so they can access information about landlords and rental opportunities in this exceedingly tight market for those who are seeking affordable housing, who are homeless but who now have an opportunity to not be homeless any more. I have found the Housing Help Desk to be an immensely valuable resource for my agency, he can’t speak to others experiences, but he has lots of experience and he would hope that we still have a resource in some form like that, at the location it is, operating as it has been and why not have it be the Tenant Resource Center, they seem to have been doing a good enough job already as far as I am concerned.
Basford asks if Weglietner is ready, she is, but she wants to add to what he said. I work my day job as an attorney and she is the only full-time housing attorney in 9 counties, including Dane, to defend people in eviction actions and prevent homelessness and their intake is limited to phone intake two days a week, Mondays and Tuesdays and they only take calls from people who are facing eviction, so if you are not in that limited category to even apply for the services, where are you going or directed by our receptionist? to the Housing Help Desk or the Tenant Resource Center. They do so much that we are not able to do, and that so many other service providers are not able to do. I can’t imagine how that service could be replicated and be as accessible and known as it is right now.
Wegleitner makes a motion that “The Homeless Issues Committee moves that the county fund both the Housing Help Desk which provides vital homeless prevention services and provide adequate funding for other critical homeless needs including access to restrooms downtown and a permanent day resource center. The county should pursue efficiencies and revenue increases to the extent authorized by the law to fund these important housing and homelessness programs.”
Steve Schooler seconds it. Yes, Steve Schooler, from Porchlight, the organization that I have been highly critical of in the past. Despite criticisms, we are all in this together, our agencies rely on each other, and perhaps that is why I am so critical of gaps in the services, but they are mostly gaps caused by underfunding.
They make sure they have the motion written down correctly. Very long pause . . . they re-read the motion.
No discussion. Motion passes unanimously except Zweifel who abstains.
Basford asks if there are any other motions. He says they will want an update on the city budget and that will be on the next agenda.
Rummel explains that the capital budget will be out soon but the Operating budget wont be out until October which is where the services are. They won’t know what the Mayor is thinking until then but we can start working on it.
He says the city budget will be on the next budget.
GROSS MIS-STATEMENTS/ALTERNATE REALITY
Duplication of services
LYNN GREEN: TRC is being cut because CAC has a new contract and this will be a duplication of services.
Here’s a chart to help you sort out the duplication of services. I drafted the chart based on 2013 Tenant Resource Center contract (start on page 20 to skip all the boiler plate language) and the CAC scope of services. I sent the chart to the city to review for accuracy and I got confirmation that it was accurate from Sue Wallinger, the grant administrator for that contract. Here’s where I think the biggest differences in our services are.
Number of people served:
TRC = Thousands, between 4,500 and 8,000 people. Contract says 6,000 information and referral, 700 housing counseling and 300 mediation intakes.
CAC = 400
Targeted people to serve:
TRC = renters, people at risk of losing their housing, people without housing, people looking for housing
CAC = people homeless for 6 months or less (200) or in housing crisis (200)
Nature of services:
TRC = working at the Job Center since 1998, doing housing counseling since 1980, 1969 if you count the Madison Tenant Union which was our predecessor organization, mediation program started in 1995.
CAC = pilot project ending in December 2014
Differences in Type of Housing Counseling
TRC = laws and information for looking for housing, practical immediate problem solving
CAC = benefits and financial counseling
Differences in Type of mediation
TRC = at small claims court with people being evicted every Tuesday
CAC = talking to the landlord on behalf of the tenant, often called shuttle mediation, but true mediators would be impartial, theirs is more advocacy on behalf of the tenant.
Access to services
TRC = Doors open, walk on in at three locations (campus, Willy St, Job Center), phone and email service
CAC = phone and email service until you are screened, some will meet with case manager who will do night and weekend work
TRC = 2 full time housing counselors staffing the housing help desk fully bilingual in Spanish (job requirement), Office Manager bilingual in Hmong
CAC = said in proposal they would do services in Spanish, Hmong and American Sign Language, does not appear in the scope of services or required by the contract
What is TRC contracted to do
LYNN GREEN: Only Staff the Housing Help Desk. Believes services will just continue without disruption if TRC loses 40% of its budget.
As you can see from the chart and the contract, here is what the county pays the TRC to do:
- Housing counseling is available by phone Monday – Friday from 9 am to 6pm.
- Small Claims Court eviction hearings are staffed Tuesday from 8:00am to 3:00 pm.
- The Job Center housing desk is open Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 2:00pm
Key Outcomes from contract:
- 200 intake interviews for housing mediation services
- To have an initial success rate of 80% in mediations between landlords and tenants
- To provide housing counseling to 700 households
- To provide information and referral to 6,000 individuals
How the loss of this funding will impact other services
- We will lose our two spanish speaking housing counselors and part-time staff, except for campus
- We will be left with three full-time staff people, our office manager, our program director and our executive director – who will all have to do their jobs in half the time they do now, plus be half time housing counselors.
- With this small of a staff, vacations and days off become difficult, seminars that we teach around the state would not be possible as we can’t have two people leave the office for a day with any reliability and one person can’t teach the seminars by themselves. Additionally, the office manager wouldn’t have time to prepare for the seminars.
- We would have to only do housing counseling for UW students and people who live in the City of Madison.
- Mediation services would be in jeopardy. We may have to cancel that program.
- People who speak Spanish would be difficult to serve. I would need to take classes (I studied spanish 20 years ago and sucked then. Anders would need to continue taking classes as well. On our own dime? Own time? We would be far from fluent.)
Homeless services survey
LYNN GREEN: Housing Help Desk ranked low in the survey and people have lots of other resources to access.
The Tenant Resource Center runs the Housing Help Desk which is located at the Dane County Job Center. If someone said they were homeless and came to the Dane County Job Center, they would be directed to our office or the worker would come and get our materials to help them sort out what to do.
This is the actual question and responses to the survey – note where JFF and other agencies she mentioned to the committee fall.:
When you started dealing with homelessness, where did you go for help?
91 Men’s Shelter
67 Hospitality House
57 Porchlight, Inc.
55 Luke House
45 The Salvation Army
45 Food Pantry(s)
44 Bethel Lutheran (Mark)
38 St. Vincent DePaul
32 Friends or Family
28 211 “First Call for Help”
27 Dane County / Job Center
21 Safe Haven
20 Occupy Madison
19 Journey Mental Health Center
16 Bubbles Program
16 Cooling Center
14 Single Women’s Shelter
14 Tenant Resource Center
12 Community Action Coalition
11 HEALTH Hut (Nurse Barb)
11 Warming House @ The Salvation Army
10 Wisconsin Rescue Mission
10 Tami / State St. Family
9 Community Center(s)
9 Housing Help Desk
8 The Road Home
8 Housing Initiatives
8 Joining Forces for Families
6 local Police Department
6 Tellurian ReachOut
5 Veteran’s Administration (VA)
5 Briarpatch – youth services
4 My family doctor
4 The Port
3 DAIS – domestic violence
3 Outreach: LGBTQ center
2 Centro Hispano
2 My children’s school
0 AIDS Network
OTHER ISSUES WORTH MENTIONING
- SPANISH! Worth repeating, highly necessary, how do the three of us provide these services without our 2 fluently bilingual staff. We can’t keep our bilingual staff because they aren’t office managers or program directors or executive directors!
- TRC provided housing lists, applications and housing information to the day resource center last Winter, without this funding, we will not be able to do this, will CAC? It’s not in their contract, so I”m guessing not.
- Computers at the Job Center are not a replacement for a human being that listens to a problem and helps suggest resolutions and steps you can take to get to resolution.
- What about renters? It seems the county thinks only homeless persons in Dane County deserve services, renters don’t.
- Is this the right time to be cutting this service when there is a 2% vacancy rate (national average 8.6), state laws are changing constantly, often to the detriment of tenants and there was a 10% increase in homelessness in 2012 from 2011.
- We do 20% of the cases at Dane County Court on Tuesdays when people get evicted, without these services, they will likely need to hire additional staff.
- What happens to everyone that won’t get services from CAC, or Legal Action, or Housing Initiatives? CAC isn’t prepared to get an additional 6,000 calls. They are contracted to help 400 people.
- What happens to the weekly housing list we maintain, we spend nearly 20 hours a week putting that together, who will do that? Over 50 agencies use that with their clients – we have over 2000 hits to that page per month.
- If we don’t do as much eviction prevention work, won’t it just increase he number of homeless in the community?
- Our services save tenants money, especially when we help people get their security deposits back, which then means they don’t need rental assistance and can pay their rent.
- We have historically not gotten any increases in funding to the point where last year we volunteered for a small cut in exchange for only being open half the hours because we were spending $50 – 60K more than we were getting for our services.
- Dane County requires that every 5 years agencies that receive funding are supposed to be reviewed and reapply for their funds, for some reason, TRC and other services in this area have not done that – there has been no review of the system or our services since 1998, shouldn’t that be the place to start instead of random cutting of services without a larger look at the system?
- What is this “to be determined” line? I’ve never seen an agency cut for something that hasn’t yet been determined. That is, in fact, highly unusual. If anyone can ever remember seeing that, please let me know, I’d like to see it!
- Irony. TRC is the fiscal agent for Shine 608 (Sarah and Z!) who were the only ones to apply to run the day resource center – so she is essentially taking TRC money to give to someone we are a fiscal agent for.
- It is just cruel, in this housing crisis, during the busiest time of the year for us, to put us through this kind of emergency work and planning. We are about to be doing our statewide seminars, planning our fall fundraiser and have hundreds of calls to return – instead staff attention is diverted to this. If this was going to be proposed, why wasn’t it discussed in advance and some planning done to determine if this was really a good idea. Clearly, they are working from a lot of misinformation.
- Homeless services should not be being pitted against housing services – especially housing services that prevent homelessness and help people get out of homelessness.
- The Homeless Issues Committee and the Equal Opportunities Committee, within one week, have already recommended against this cut – I suspect that there may be a few motions from a few other committees as well.
- Our housing law work informs our eviction prevention and housing counseling and often tenants rights under these laws can prevent other bad things from happening – it is the foundation of everything we do, no other agency has that type of foundation to work from and these services cannot be replaced.
WHAT’S MOTIVATING THIS?
Only Lynn Green knows. There are certainly many theories running around. Retaliation is the one I hear from everyone. Political pawn is what I think is more likely. But who knows? Only Lynn Green. If we are a political pawn either between the city and county, or being used to get more money into the Homeless Services portion of the budget, that is a very cruel thing to do, as noted above. We have clients to serve, we shouldn’t be being used in a political process.
BUDGET PROCESS/WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
This is the first step in the county budget process that goes like this:
1. Departments submit their budget requests to the County Executive Joe Parisi.
2. Joe Parisis holds a heard on those proposals (Tuesday) and then works during September to create his budget which is revealed the first week in October.
3. The county board refers that budget to many committees that make recommendations to the Personnel and Finance Committee which prepares a budget to be approved by the county board mid-November, before Thanksgiving.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
1. Sign the change.org petition, in less than 48 hours 250 people have signed on, please add your voice! Add comments to the petition under why this is important to you.
2. Join the facebook event. It will keep you updated as things are happening.
3. Email the County Executive and County Board with your thoughts about this matter, asking for the funding to be restored. Make sure to include your home address so they know you are a constituent. email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Register against this cut at the hearing on Tuesday (Sept. 3) at the Alliant Energy Center at 6:00. On your registration slip, write a sentence or two about why the Tenant Resource Center services are important.
5. Speak at the public hearing on Tuesday! Let them hear from you about why these services are important.
6. Talk to your county board supervisor, ask them what they think and let us know!
7. Donate. We’re swamped, we can’t keep up the way it is. We need new technology and additional staff. Let me know if you want to sponsor the fall fundraiser as part of that donation – the event is October 25th.
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