Why Can’t We Plan for Winter, Holidays and Homeless Services?

Posted January 15th, 2014 @ 10:59 AM by

This is just embarrassing. Apparently, its just too complex and we’ve never done it this way before – so we weren’t prepared. Really? You gotta be kidding me.

The Homeless Issues Committee met last night, kinda. They didn’t have quorum, but they did listen to the members of the public that did show up. They couldn’t act on anything, but they did try to get public input and answers to questions. Heidi Wegleitner was chairing, Leland Pan, Nick Zwiefel were all there from the county board. Marsha Rummmel and Larry Palm were there from the City Council. Kelley Donohue from the police department. United Way and the homeless and formerly homeless people were not there along with the chair, Michael Basford. (I think I am missing one person who was missing)

Here’s the audio.

Dave Peters spoke about some churches that want to get involved, the need for storage lockers (the sooner the better), we need showers, and restrooms, not just portapotties.

Tesimony starts at 3 minutes. There is a hand out. Because of the weather there are written statements. The first is from Tami Miller (Feeding the State St. Family) and Carrie Riddle/Chaous (Stone Soup). I attended the homeless services consortium where this was discussed and I was concerned that there was a lot of work done by volunteers that that was invisible in that discussion. What they did was amazing. They contacted everyone that they knew and they made sure people had what they needed sleeping bags, bus passes, charged cell phones, etc. They got as many people to shelter as possible, those that could not navigate the shelter system were given hotel rooms. There were 30 – 40 people who were triaged during this time. The other difficulty during these stressful time is the flow of information. I am a member of the Homeless Services Consortium and I got information 2 days after it happened. There is a listserve but we are not allowed to post directly to it, so we have to wait for a staff member to send it. Most of the information I got was from Heidi or Preston at the men’s shelter who was really great. It was all happening really fast over the holidays and when agencies were closed, people were doing the best they could. At the end, they were asking me to put it on my Facebook so that volunteers would know what is going on. That doesn’t seem to be the appropriate way to get this information out. I also wanted to point out that in addition to the death of the gentleman that Sunday night, there were some other pretty serious things that happened. I have picture of a man whose fingers are all black from frostbite. He is permanently banned from shelter, so he probably thought he couldn’t go there, but on Saturday night, the capitol police gave him a blanket and told him to sleep on a grate and they checked on him. That was his plan for the evening. That is where he was supposed to sleep. There were multiple other people who were banned from shelter or who thought they were banned from shelter who I tried to convince to go to shelter but I had nothing in writing to give them to let them know they could get in. I had nothing to give them to say take this over to the shelter, you can can get in, it will be ok. I even got out the permanent ban list and showed people that their name was not on it, but they still thought they were banned. Trying to convince someone to go shelter is a hard thing to do. There was also another person having a bad evening that got into a dispute with a shelter worker and left, he wasn’t banned, but didn’t feel he could go to the shelter and he ended up in the hospital after a suicide attempt. There needs to be a better system in place, I do have suggestions on the third page – these are just the things I know about, there are sure to be more. Time ran out, so I didn’t get to talk about the suggestions. I handed out the winter report, said that the biggest thing we can do is advanced planning according to the report – this is Wisconsin, we have holidays, there are homeless people this isn’t a surprise. Why do we scramble around at the last minute repeatedly without an information sharing system in place and without services for those who are not fitting neatly into the box of the services we do have. How many times will the volunteers in this community be able to scramble to figure something out at the last minute because there are not plans in place.

Advanced planning
- Holidays and cold weather in Wisconsin are not a surprise to us – why is there no system in place to handle cold weather and closed services
Better and timely information!
- Notifications to members of the Homeless Services Consortium – share information
- Listserve to easily share information when staff are out of the office
- 2-1-1 actually list one time closings and events
- Written information that can be printed and given to people who believe they are banned
- Media updates
Services for those who do not fit inside the box and are turned away or leave
- Mentally ill
- Pets, service animals
Outreach workers?
- What is the role of paid outreach workers in this weather?
Volunteers/Advocates at Shelter
- What can we do?
Re-examine what best practices are for cold weather
- http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/winter_weather/Winter_weather_report.pdf
Consider mortality rates of the homeless
- http://www.forwardlookout.com/2014/01/homeless-mortality-rates-3-to-9-times-greater-than-housed-persons/20668

Tami Miller Statement (Friends of the State St. Family):

Last year, I tried in vain to get outreach workers from Porchlight, Tullarian, Birarpatch and any other agency that had them together. We have worked collaboritvely with Briarpatch on several occasion and share information with them… and, of course, share everything with Stone Soup… For this Weather advisory we had an outreach meeting and coordinated teams to go out and find people and convince them to come in from the cold- advising them of the danger, and the shelter regulation change. We also provided bus passes and transportation, and our outreach line to call if anyone is stranded at any point. People were brought into the shelters, and some who had mental health issues with staying there were taken to sponsored hotel rooms. FSSF handled the known car campers and tent/bridge campers outside of the downtown areas, and Stone Soup handled the downtown. We have a “secret” group page where we post and update most activities to be sure that everyone was reached in a timely manner and helped in whatever way was practical and useful to get them to shelter or survive this cold. We have been doing this on a smaller scale for over a year now, but with the recent addition of about a dozen volunteers willing to do this type of outreach- we were really able to get people where they needed to go, and had people on standby for emergencies. WE delivered propane and gas cards to some, extra warm gear to others… We also made a conscious effort at the preceeding food run on state street to talk to each person about what their plan was for the cold weather- where they would be, trying to convince the “hardcore” outside campers to come in from the cold for safety, and also giving them our number if they were worried about going to the shelter, offering to accompany them inside and make sure they had access. Today people put up in hotels will be given bus passes or rides back to their location of choice after 12, and the rest of the sites will be checked in on again. WE have 100 -30 army surplus modular sleeping bags coming in this week that we plan to distribute to outside winter campers first, (Stone Soup will distribute to the downtown) and each team will be adopting “Zones” of urban campers that they will develop relationships with and monitor- and help connect them with exsisting services… that is our current plan. would love input on other steps that could be taken.

Carrie Riddle Statement (Stone Soup):
Stone Soup convinced and made sure everyone in the down town area got into the shelters. Those that didn’t, 6 of them, were given rides to a hotel followed up with feeding everyone at the hotel including Occupy’s and Tami’s people. Stone Soup gave bus passes out to make sure everyone could get back up town. We also went into the capitol during the day and handed out several (at least 6) cases of hand warmers during the day.

The rest of the handout has some information about how I was getting information and my request about transportation between shelters the day before the gentleman died outside of shelter 1.

Testimony of Karen Andro starts at 9:20 on the audio. Karen is the Outreach Ministry worker at First United Methodist Church and they opened their church on New Year’s Eve. She recieved a message from Linda Ketcham about helping out, there was no plan, that she knew of. She asked their senior pastor if they could open, it was a paid day off, a holiday. Our pastor thought Bethel was open. The bottom line is knowing and having a plan would be good. A wonderful thing that happened at the church was people stepping up to the plate, Friends of the State St. Family, Stone Soup, Mark and Connor (Bethel), Sarah and Z! and Mike from Tellurian. They had people there to make it work. The challenging part was not knowing, to change the building to be open for staffing with maintenance. She was looking for places to refer people, Brenda had concerned about what was going to be open several days earlier and she was looking for information and she just couldn’t find it. She called the United Way, they didn’t have anything, that is the resource she was told to call, the first thing they ask is your zip code and they don’t have a way to give information to providers. She needs a way to get information too. Even the news stations had information wrong. When she contacted the media they had problem with their information being accurate. She would like a complete, accurate place for information. She is grateful for the advocates that stepped forwards. Hopefully something good can come out of the challenges and we can set up an emergency plan. She thinks that Friends of the State St. Family and Stone Soup need to be part of a formal system, they are the folks that answer the call when we need support to be able to open, they have the building, but they don’t have the staffing.

13:42 – Kelley Donohue asks what the suggestions are for getting the information out? The question is for both me and Karen, but I never got a chance to answer the question. Karen says that personally there should be more than one source, she likes the idea about a google site where providers are given access to post their services directly. There should be more than one avenue, listserves need to be on time and ahead of time. United Way should have a way to provide information. A lot of homeless folks don’t have phones so service providers need the information. We know first hand, we have relationships with people, and we can get word of mouth. The main thing is the planning, so there is a resource for providers, not just one talking through a can but more direct access. Information needs to get out earlier. She read my blog and that is how she found out. She assumed that Bethel would be open. If we don’t know and we are providers, imagine how confusing is it for people who are homeless. She would like to know when bans are removed, they might also learn from that, they have a short list of people who have been banned, but it would make sense for us to lift the bans too. Communication ahead of time and more than one avenue. Accessiblity and advanced notice.

16:40 Heidi Wegleitner asks about the timeline, how did you come to open your doors, who was there, who was paid and volunteering, how did the day go? Karen says they were open at 8, they opened an hour earlier because it was so cold and stayed open til 3:30. Heidi asks when she found out about the need – Karen says the day before. Heidi says that was the 30th, a Monday. Karen says she read the blog several days prior (I say the 20th) and I felt really bad, here that is my day off, the church staff is off, that is a greatest need day. They plan a year in advance. They will be closed on Martin Luther King day, on Monday. Linda Ketcham’s email was 9:45 the day before, she was at home, she emailed the pastor. Heidi asked who was on the email and what did it say. Linda was putting out a call for help to a few churches. Kelley asks if it was the 30th or 31st. Karen says it was for both days, they could only do one day. Her senior pastor asked isn’t Bethel open? She pleaded, she promised to do whatever it takes, she would volunteers, she responded back that she would approve it if the building supervisor said ok. He said go for it. Internally there were some snags, it was the nonplanning part of it. Heidi asks how they got the word out. She posted it on facebook, called United Way, put out a plea to the advocates. Heidi asked if she had any contact with the county. Lynn Green interrupts and says yes, they are why Linda Ketcham contacted them and they did media. Karen says that they thanked them and that they were glad they could do it and they hoped they can work better in the future. They just felt they needed to do what it takes. Thanks to the people who answered the call, even those who were not there helped get the word out. People were taking soup out and sleeping bags. She works closely with Friends of the State St. Family, Stone Soup, Mark at Bethel, Brenda . . . its the networking. Heidi asks if they were able to do this before Bethel closed on Monday. Yes, I networked by cell phone or social media. Heidi asks how many volunteers they had? Maybe a Dozen. No one was paid? I was, the pastor and maintenance person was there. The pastor was there because they had never opened in that capacity before. Lynn Green says Z! and Sarah were there and they were paid by the county (Bullshit! The city paid, there is no county money yet, I know, I happen to be the fiscal agent) Karen says they were awesome, she can’t say enough about the people who were there. She says there were close to 150 people there, they served breakfast and lunch. Heidi asks if this is something the church would consider doing again. Karen says that she doesn’t have the authority to answer that after chuckling from some of us in the audience. Heidi asks if there was a take away. Karen says planning. Two take aways, the extraordinary positive, the quality of hospitality, caring, advocacy, outreach. Mark and Connor were there at 8 am. Heidi asks about problems with the people served. Karen says there were some challenges, someone brought some liquor in, it was an empty bottle, the gentleman who spoke to that said it was from the night before and they disposed of it and there was not problem from the gentleman whatsoever. She says they had a minor issue – no police calls. They had two on Christmas and they were health related. Heidi thanks her for stepping up. Karen says they are happy to be there to talk about planning and she can’t say if they can do it in the future, we need to do the planning. We could have inclement weather even in the summer.

26:45 Mark Wilson the director of outreach services at Bethel introduces Connor, his head person. He says that Feeding the State St. Family and Fist United Methodist Church were amazing. He also asked his church about opening and it was out of the question. With no prior planning or commitment, it wasn’t a surprise we were closed, its been planned for a long time. It is unfortunate that we were closed on days when it was -30 or -40 windchills, but that doesn’t matter, because 32 degrees is the same thing, it can be just as bad with no place to go. As soon as they found out that that 1st United Methodist would be open, they made the announcement to the 60 or 70 people that were there. So they knew it would be available, that is how they got the word out and they decided they should come and help, they are not used to having people there all day. The biggest thing we should work on is we are going to be closed on the 20th too, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, so is First United Methodist, so is the county, they city, and I know that in the past hasn’t Porchlight remained open, the shelter. I know Monona Terrace has done that before, they couldn’t do that on New Year’s Eve, but in the past Porchlight has stayed open during the day and he didn’t hear anything like that. They lifted the ban on individuals, I don’t know why they didn’t keep them at Grace, personally. He knows that has happened on really bad weather days. He doesn’t know why they were not more of a participant when the library and Bethel were not available. The communication was tough, they should have a plan in place. They county knew. This is not rocket science, we need a plan in place a month ahead of time. It was really, really cold, but that doesn’t make any difference, you can freeze at 40 degrees, they almost lost xx last year because he climbed into a dumpster and it was raining – he almost expired from hypothermia – he has Huntington’s disease. You can die at 40 degrees from hypothermia. This isn’t rocket science. This doesn’t need to be this hard, we just need a communication network to get out to the advocates or people that are working with them. They made the announcement as soon as they knew. Everyone was just wonderful.

Human Services
32:46 Heidi asks staff if the contracts specify services on holidays. Lynn Green says Hospitality House is open on all the holidays and they don’t close and have been open the whole time. (right, but 150 people were at 1st United Methodist, why? What are we paying Hospitality House for? And how do 150 people get there on a holiday without bus passes and with the metro holiday schedule, how long would they stand in the cold to get there if they had a bus pass?) Heidi tries to clarify. Do they not have to serve people? Lynn Green asks Tim Saterfield to answer since he writes the contracts. Saterfield says that each contract is different. They have a list of holidays Bethel is closed, Hospitality House does, and all Porchlight is open 24/7 and Salvation Army. He can’t tell them off the top of his head if that is in the contract. (He seems wildly inaccurate in that statement) Long pause – during which time Tim Saterfield doesn’t mention the Homeless Hotline, Coordinated Intake or the committee meetings that are going on about the coordination of homeless services as required by HUD – curious. Heidi asks about the meetings over the past year with emergency management and how they are going. Lynn Green says “Jay” is here. Tim Saterfield says it is more than staff that meets with emergency management. Heidi says she knows other people are invited, she has never been invited, but she wants to know about the meetings and any product that might come from the meetings, they last had him there in summer.

Emergency Management
34:31 – Jay says yes – this is a really tortured effort to try to get information from a bureaucrat that doesn’t have the power to do his job – I’m just going to highlight the main points and you can listen for yourself.
- Heidi asks about the draft plan, he says it is still a draft. Heidi asks for the ability to get a copy and is glad there is work going on, but we would like to have input, how can that process get opened up.
- Jay says that part of the issue is that people want to know that people will provide their services and a comprehensive list of the services and maintaining that list is hard to keep updates. He suggests the providers should have a system for provision of information. Friends of the State St. Family and Stone Soup and the 211. Karen interjects and says that United Way had no info Hospitality House would be open. He says it is the job of United Way 211 to do this, but they only have the information provided to them. Service providers know when they will be closed – it is hard to keep track of all this information.
- Heidi suggests we just keep track of shelter, day and night for extreme conditions. Jay says that there is a way to work through that, they weren’t aware of those issues of services being closed. They didn’t know some of the people were out there providing services. Maybe 211 can figure out what parameters to get from everyone. they can maintain the list and get contact information. Google pages still need to be maintained. United Way has that information.
- Heidi says 211 is out of our control, what can county government do to get info out. She says Public Health Department issues press releases all the time. Can Emergency Management get the info out to news sources and we can have an official document about the policies in place. Jay says they can send it to the media and there is no guarantee it will get out. He says it is a lack of organization between social service providers.
- Heidi asks about social media. Lynn Green says they don’t do social media – the county doesn’t have a policy on it. They did issue a press release that had info on sheltering over the holidays. Heidi asks who did, she didn’t get it. She can get it out to emails and facebook if she got it.
- Jay says we need a consistent medium to get the info out. We need one entity to get the info out and maitain the info and we don’t have that. (HEY I GOT AN IDEA – THE CITY PAYS CAC $145,000 TO DO COORDINATED INTAKE AND RUN A HOMELESS HOTLINE – SEEMS OBVIOUS!)
- Kelly Donohue says a press release is not the best way to get info to homeless, word of mouth would be good, she is more concerned about timeliness of information and preparation. The forecast was out there and it was accurate – for her, being boots on the ground, the ban was a big issue for them. They tried to give people rides to the shelter but they thought they were banned. She could have used a piece of paper saying the ban is lifted and you can go. To her tho, its the timliness and the preparation. We could have bitter cold 2 weeks from now, so to have a message prior to the weekend is important. The holidays will fall again in the middle of the week next year. We were scrambling on Monday to find out if we had handwarmers and blankets to give to people. Jay’s response is that they had a conference call on Sunday. Madison PD was on that call. He says identifying when the problem is for them is an issue. At what point does it become an emergency, when does it become an acute emergency vs a chronic one. Our attention go up with a weather warning. That is the threshold they use. Timeliness of distribution is also an issue – but that is for the service providers. We need a heads up that the services will be closed, someone should look at that, the whole provider community knows that is going to be an issue – somewhere in that community the flag needs to be raised. They would need to organize that community – we help organize the response, but when there is not an answer, all we do is call around at the last minute because that is when it comes up. Planning up is not a role for emergency management if they know they will be closed, the service providers should do it. It’s an emergency when we find out at the last minute.
- Heidi asks about people trying to get in to shelter at night, Porchlight said they would let everyone in, police and outreach workers need to know that information. Jay says that is not the county’s ability to make that decision – Salvation Army and Porchlight make that decision. Heidi asks if they can help get the word out. He says word travels fast on the street in the community and not through the media. Service providers make the decisions and the service providers and advocates need to communicate instead of government doing it. Us aggragating all that info is time consuming.
- Kelly asks what the role of emergency management is in extreme weather. They organize support and coordinate. They had no role in Monona Terrace last summer. They work with human services and county departments and service providers sheltering, Porchlight and Salvation Army to identify the issues. They respond when there is a wind chill warning, where it is below 20 degrees and Porchlight or Salvation Army ask for assistance or if wind chill and precipitation. Lynn Green jumps in and says that emergency government took on the role of trying to facilitate and be an organizational point. For example, when the weather was going bad they had an email list and called a conference for their email list. There is no point of coordination in this community (What the hell does the Homeless Consortium do then? Or the $145,000 contract for Coordinated Intake and the Homeless Hotline?) She feels their frustration, she spent an entire day trying to organizae this from New Orleans. She feels the frustration, but we all need to get together and figure out the answer to it instead of point fingers. (OKAY, call a meeting, talk to us, let us give you input, see suggestions above!) She applauds emergency government for stepping forward, they call a conference call – that goes out to all the providers, the police and providers and then it is a matter of who is going to join that call at 1:00 on Sunday. That call had Porchlight, Salvation Army, police, her, utilities. The mechanism is set up, but its only as good as people use it (OR WHO IS INVITED TO THE CALL – you fix all this by inlcuding Tami Miller, Carrie Riddle, Mark Wilson and Karen Andro on that call . . . but they are not invited.) Porchlight and Salvation Army explained to everyone on the call that there was no ban, the police knew. (Capitol Police?, and for the man with frostbite, he needed to know a night earlier.) Then every entity on that call has to take responsiblity to get the word out (But we can’t if we aren’t included in the call)
- Heidi asks about the Coordinated intake. Jay asks “who is that”? Lynn Green says that is not our contract. Heidi explains. Heidi says CAC, Jay asks who is that? Jay asks how wide the call goes out – it can’t be more than 50 people. Heidi explains that people in crisis are supposed to call that number, they are a 211 for homeless people. Jay says the city fire departmetn and police hosted a meeting with service providers to find out who was interested (I never heard about that through the Homeless Services Consortium) and people who were interested signed up. (And what about the volunteer groups?) He says that was the basis for the list, CAC was part of it. His frustration is the list is a problem, is is always short and inaccurate and not everyone else needs to know. He says service providers need to provide the information. There has to be self-organizations.
- They say they don’t know what the answer is (Kelly, Jay, Lynn)
- Lots of questions about what 211 can do, would have been nice to have United Way there. (I have sat through hours of meetings discussing this due to the coordinated intake requirement by HUD and these two conversations happening have never overlapped.)
- Heidi says that there seem to be simple solutions, timely accurate information to contracted providers and outreach volunteers in a format that is credible so people on the ground believe what they are being told.
- I’m starting to feel sorry for this guy at this point . . . he is trying his best, but I think he has bad information . . . and people who should have better information have not provided him with the information he needs – not about the services, but who should be involved.
- Heidi says that we just need day and night shelter information – then we can get it out to lots of people. We need to know what the contracted providers are doing and we need to get that out timely and officially. Porchlight, Salvation Army and Bethel are the contracted services, that’s it. Jay says they should get the word out. Heidi points out that if you are banned, you won’t get the word from the provider. If people want to know the policies of Porchlight or Salvation Army, why can’t they just call them. Adding government in here would be confusing.
- Heidi says Martin Luther King Day is next week, we’ve had the department here a few times, we hear there is a draft plan, we hear there are systems and processes, what would trigger a communication, if we could see the plan we could comment on it, but we haven’t seen the draft, we don’t know how to weigh in.
- Heidi urges them, some department needs to take responsibility for htis.
- Larry says that the conversation has to happen on a different level, how would the day center change the communication – they would be open every day and they would be a valuable hub for information. Could this be part of that contract with that organizaation. (GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, TRC and Shine applied for the coordinated intake grant and would have been able to do this work, but the contract went to an agency that is not doing this.) Larry says someone just needs to have someone in charge of this – they could be the single point of contact (except the city decided CAC was that service)
- Heidi says that the government still needs to play a role in saying what services are available that the county is providing – just like when we find out about the cross country ski trails. Jay takes exception to that comparison, there are more working parts here, that is what is confusing. Having service providers, volunteers and advocates makes this confusing. (Um, no it doesn’t, just tell us what the hell is going on! Listening to this again is driving me nuts. It was hard enough the first time- you will hear me muttering in the background). He says we need a system for people to provide and find info.
- Marsha says that she hears that government is not the best vehicle, but we also need an official source of information. We need all the strategies, press releases for the press, facebook for those who use that, we need to embrace social media as emergency providers.
- Heidi shares story about constituent that saw info on her facebook and shared it with someone who they ran into at Hawthorne library – and the constituent wanted to know where they could find this information.
- Heidi asks when the next meeting is. Jay doesn’t know.
- Heidi asks when they can see the draft. They will understand if it is draft. He asks when the meet again, he asks if he can come back the 4th Tuesday of February. They meet Feb 11th. he will get something on the 11th, but he doesn’t want to give them paper in advance, since it will not be a step by step thing, it will be better understood if he can explain it.
- Larry Palm suggests that digital signage might be an option at library, etc. He will encourage city to look at federal grants. We use it for road work, why not major congregation areas. They suggest on bus stops.
- Nick suggests that social media would work, just getting list of provider information, look into google. He explains how a listserve works and its free and wouldn’t take a lot of effort. Jay says there may not be a charge, but it takes time, it could take 6 hours to accumulate that information. He spent 2.5 days trying to set up a conference call, deciding who should be involved, etc. (JFC, here is the damn list maintained by the city! HSC Directory – except it is mostly all paid providers, not the volunteer groups like Feeding the State St. Family and Stone Soup who are doing the work on the ground – they can’t attend the meeting because they work during the day.)
- Heidi offers to meet with him and help him figure out who is available in the community to help solve some of these issues, it might not be as overwhelming as we think it is.

Facilities Management
LTE janitor is there, Heidi asks why, he says to observe. They ask him to come up. He says getting the word out is the biggest issue. He says the biggest issue in dealing with something complicated is communication, including all the way down to the janitors. It’s hard to say how to fix it, but the biggest step is communication and a leader. Heidi asks if he has gotten any communications about these issues. He says that there was a homeless person one night and it was really cold out, they were in the Wilson St. entrance and he asked if he was suppsoed to be there, he was the only one there and they guy said that the lieutenant said it was ok. He just left it at that and he believed him. (Back story – apparently – maintenance threw out the guys blankets and he had none). He says he talks to the homeless people and they tell him what is going on. There is no communication from above, no direct commands. Heidi asks about the conference call, he didn’t hear anything about it. He says he learns about shelters being open from the homeless people, it would be nice if there was twitter or facebook page. He says it just take s a leader. No one wants to volunteer for it right now, except maybe some people who don’t work for the city or county.

They can’t do anything because they didn’t have quorum.

Categories: | Dane | Madison | Media

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