Homeless Issues Committee rejects ‘no sleeping’ resolution

Wants city to provide affordable housing
Homeless Issues Committee rejects ‘no sleeping’ resolution

The City-Council Homeless Issues Committee is asking Madison to do better.

On Monday the committee rejected a city resolution that would prohibit people who are homeless from sleeping or lying anywhere in the Central Business District from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Committee members said this is too broad of an area.

In a statement, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin explained the motivation for this resolution.

“When sleeping materials, combined with clothing and food storage remain in the same place, day after day, it prevents city crews from cleaning these public sidewalks and parks spaces. The health and safety of all people who share the space is important. It is not asking too much that the possessions be moved during the day so that we can clean the area and everyone can enjoy the space,” Soglin said.

Alder Larry Palm of District 12 suggested that since the city is concerned about maintenance and cleaning of streets, perhaps the city could designate times to clean certain areas and leave other areas open for sleeping.

The committee discussed how this resolution doesn’t accommodate individuals who work third shift and need to sleep during the day.

Ulysses Williams, a committee member who is formerly homeless, said he’s totally against the resolution “unless we can find a solution where they can get the rest they want or a place in the daytime where they can sleep.”

Committee Chair Linda Ketcham said people still need to sleep somewhere and this resolution is by definition criminalization of homelessness.

The vote to reject the resolution was unanimous and members said the real goal should be to provide access to housing for those who need it.

Second on the agenda was the plan for the former Messner Inc. property at 1326 E. Washington Ave. that Dane County purchased in late 2015 as the site for a proposed day resource center.

After neighborhood opposition a different site was selected for the day center, leaving the Messner property open for other purposes.

The committee voted in favor of moving forward with a redevelopment plan that could turn the property into an affordable housing site for mixed-income residents. The property would offer rental housing units for families with “very low or extremely low incomes,” defined as 50 percent to 30 percent, respectively, of the county median income.

One committee member mentioned that Mayor Paul Soglin wants to go through a research and evaluation process to decide on the best site for an affordable housing structure.

But committee member Heidi Wegleitner said given the city already owns this site, redevelopment plans should move forward. “We can’t just sit on our hands, because people need housing,” she said.