I ask again, can you imagine being homeless in this weather – where temperatures are going to be cold enough that after 10 minutes outside you can get frostbite. A permanent, comprehensive day center is what we need. We desperately need it for the beginning of next week. A van carrying 15 people at a time can’t possible help the over 200 single men and women experiencing homelessness – and that doesn’t count the families.
When you got up this morning, you could make a cup of coffee, throw a load of laundry in the washer, make breakfast, open your mail while eating your breakfast, throw your clothes in the dryer, jump in the shower, make your lunch, get ready for work and run out the door to your car (maybe you even started your car from inside your house), let it warm up and go where you need to go, with limited amount of time outside. All that would take you what, an hour and half, 2 hours max depending upon where you work.
Now, imagine being homeless . . . to do what I just described this is what you would need to do.
In this scenario, you are a homeless person staying at Salvation Army (women and families) (A), men are at Grace Episcopal Church (116 E Washington Ave). You get kicked out of the shelter by 8am – you may or may not have gotten a shower and some breakfast. Its freezing cold outside, so you can wait for the van that only holds 15 people, but there are 30 people, so you may or may not get a seat and the van may or may not show up. So, you probably might walk instead of waiting to see if you have a ride. You walk 8 blocks to Bethel Church – there is coffee and computers there – not much else. At some point, you would probably walk over to First United Methodist Church (C) between 9 and noon to get your sack lunch, unless you wanted to make it down to Luke House on Ingersoll (G) which is at least 20 blocks. It serves a warm meal, but in this weather, the sack lunch is probably looking really good. If you want your mail, you have to go to either the Hospitality House (F) which accepts all mail, but its returned after 30 days. Some of your mail might also be at the Dane County Job Center (H) (only government related mail can be received here). If you want a shower, you get to compete 3 days a week (M,W, F) for the 15 slots/day that are available for a shower at the Catholic Multicultural Center (E), which might take you all day because the van drops off in the morning and picks up in the afternoon. If you want to do laundry, on Tuesdays and Fridays you can go to “Bubbles” (D).
Now, do this all in frigidly cold weather. Imagine trying to do it without a bus pass and relying on a van that holds 15 but is supposed to serve over 200 people. Imagine doing this while carrying everything you own with you. Imagine having to get your kids to school and carry a toddler with you all day long. What if you are sick and don’t feel well and just want to take a nap? What if you have a major illness or an injury and have to get to doctor appointments as well? How many times a week would you take a shower? Or wash your laundry?
By the time you spend all that time trying to get basics need met, how do you have time to look for a job or housing?
This is why we need a permanent, comprehensive day center. It seems obvious if we are serious about solving homelessness – or just being a compassionate society. Have we even put in an offer to purchase the day center? When will it open? Where are the storage services that were supposed to start the first of the year? Why did Porchlight have one van, get a second van from the county, and still, there is only one van? How much longer before we have portapotties downtown? Where will they be? If we want people to stop peeing in alleyways, they need alternatives.
Who is responsible for this “system”? Who designed it? Who is improving it? Who is looking at it and realizing how absurd it is and that something different should be done – three years ago? Who is responsible for this mess? Who needs to be fired?
Are you as tired of listening to me as I am of saying these types of things? Ask your elected officials what is going on! Be nice to the alders (email@example.com) and supervisors (firstname.lastname@example.org), they did their part and put money in the budget – some of it has been sitting there for a whole year. Its now in the hands of the administrators (Green@countyofdane.com and email@example.com) and their bosses – Mayor Soglin (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Joe Paris (email@example.com) . No one seems to be in a hurry to get anything done – or plan ahead. And don’t bother contacting the the United Way (MCranley@uwdc.org and firstname.lastname@example.org ), they don’t think we need to provide homeless services, that we should only focus on affordable housing (which we are not creating or adding to the amount available – so do nothing?) Tired of listening to me? Do something! Ask the people in charge what is going on? Why can’t we do this right? Better?
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