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Homeless at the city-county building fuels concerns

Growing crowds and growing issues bring people out to talk to city and county leaders

MADISON, Wis. - Homeless at the city-county building fuels concerns

A number of people stationed in the city-county building in downtown Madison are voicing concerns about a growing group.

Lisa Veldran has worked in the city-county building for 28 years and said changing behavior in the homeless who stay and sleep around the entrance have her concerned for public health.

"We're not a homeless day shelter. Period. The city-county building is not designated for that," Veldran said.

Veldran said her more recent complaints go beyond any abandoned property, arguments, profanity and occasional arguments she has experienced in the past.

She has heard about a public urination situation in an elevator. In addition, she said the Public Health Department sent an email warning workers of lice.

Veldran said she's concerned about employees, as well as the people who come to the facility for city and county services.

"This is a building that is for public use by all of our citizens," Veldran said, "and to have it denigrated to the issues where we're dealing with issues of health and public safety within the building, that's concerning to me."

The city-county liaison committee, made up of Madison city alders and Dane County board members, met Thursday night and took up the ongoing issues.

Madison Police Capt. Carl Gloede told the committee a lack of a permanent daytime warming shelter is an issue. He said police weren't necessarily seeking a change in policy. However, Gloede noted there is no one assigned to enforcing any of the building's rules, and therefore, few consequences for those who break them.

Gloede mentioned better enforcement, or perhaps giving someone authority of enforcing building rules, could keep the quality of life for those both living and working at the city-county building in check.

Gloede also acknowledged it is a small minority of the homeless community creating most of the serious problems.

Brian – who did not want to give his last name for privacy issues – said he's heard about some of the issues going on, but agrees that it is the work of few that is causing problems for many.

"We got a few people who are homeless who are actually ruining it for the rest of the people who are actually kind of responsible about what they do and how they act and so on and so forth around here," Brian said.

Brian attended the meeting, along with many other members of the homeless community who urged the committee to allow them to stay in and around the building.

Brian admitted there is cursing and fighting apparent at the city-county building, but he can't bear the thought of his friends being forced back on the streets with no day shelter to turn to this winter.

"It doesn't look good. I mean, it's not a pretty sight to see," Brian said, "but when you're down and out and desperate, what are you going to do, you know? I'm sorry, but it's going to happen."

The city-county liaison committee did not make any decisions Thursday night, but plan to take up the issue again in November.

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