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Officials divided on ways to deal with homeless in CCB

Mayor, county executive disagree on how to handle safety, public health concerns

MADISON, Wis. - Officials divided on ways to deal with homeless in CCB

The debate on how to handle the homeless in the halls of the City-County Building has reached the top offices of Madison and Dane County.

The City-County Liaison Committee discussed the issue of homeless in the city-county building once again Monday night. Along with plenty of public opinion, the group had proposals to consider this time around.

Mayor Paul Soglin said the best way to address ongoing concerns with safety and public health is to hire a private security guard in charge of enforcing building rules. He said there are too many reports of alcohol and drug use, fighting and general disturbances to tolerate anymore.

"Urinating in the elevator, physical fights, being passed out from drugs and alcohol," Soglin said. "That is extreme, and we are not doing these visitors any favor by allowing that kind of behavior."

Soglin also wants to make the loitering policies stronger, making it so anyone "without apparent business" can be asked to leave.

"There are places to go. There are plenty of places to go," Soglin said. "The problem is they have rules. They have rules of decorum. And I think we've finally reached a limit that we can't continually create one more place with no rules."

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said Soglin's plan is extreme. He said any measure they pursue to deal with the issue shouldn't target people without homes, but people who are acting out.

"If people want to stop in here and spend some time, escape from the weather, I'm good with that as long as they're following the rules just like everyone else," Parisi said.

The county's risk management department presented a revised version of the current behavior policy to the City-County Liaison Committee Monday night.

Using the rules at the Madison Public Library as a model, the changes include introducing a no-tolerance violence policy and putting up posters to explain the facility's trespassing rules.

"What are you going to do? Have someone come up and ask someone if they have ‘business in the building'? And if they don't have what's deemed acceptable, (do we) ask them to leave even if they're not harming anyone?" Parisi said. "I just don't think that's an appropriate way to go."

The committee will pass the county's proposed revisions on to the Homeless Issues Committee for further review.

City-County Liaison Committee member and Madison alderman Mark Clear said there was also support for some sort of staffing at a city-county building front desk. That person's main responsibilities would be tied to customer service, but the position would also cover enforcing the building rules. Clear added creating such a position would require funding from both the city and county.

The issue is scheduled to return to the City-County Liaison Committee on Dec. 16.

The Dane County Board of Supervisors will make an announcement Tuesday morning on future services for the homeless.

County officials said they will unveil new contracts and services regarding Madison Area Rehabilitation Center on the east side. A project that was planned to help the homeless there fell through earlier this year.

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