‘It’s really hard’: Madison woman without a place to stay after city-funded hotel housing program for homeless ends

MADISON, Wis. — Chandra Osterhaus has fears of a sleepless and potentially unsafe night, sparked by what happened Tuesday morning.

“It’s really hard because I don’t know where I’m going to sleep at night,” Osterhaus said.

She was told she needed to pack up her things at the Madison Plaza Hotel on East Washington Avenue. People experiencing homelessness had been staying there thanks to city efforts.

“It was just a big rush to pick out which things we wanted to keep and which things we wanted to take in storage or get rid of, throw away and we had until noon, but I had to be at work,” explained Osterhaus.

However, by this Thursday, no one will be staying there. The hotel is closing and the property owners are selling.

“I’ve been here since April. They knew that someone would be buying the building and that they would have to take over at a certain point,” Osterhaus said.

Madison’s Community Development Director told us there are two groups of people staying at this hotel: 25 via a city-funded program, and another 85 to 90 people via a Dane County program.

For months, the city has planned to end its arrangement with the hotel by June 30th, but unlike the county, Madison won’t be directly moving guests to another hotel. The city does intend to still provide vouchers for those who qualify and also offers other shelter options.

However, Osterhaus says she doesn’t qualify because she has a job that pays too much.

“It’s really tough not knowing where you are going to go and how cold it’s going to be,” said Osterhaus.

The City Director News 3 Now contacted couldn’t speak about Chandra’s case directly. However, he said the program’s funding is federal, so there are general financial and other rules at play.

None of that helps Chandra Tuesday night, who’s hoping someone, somewhere helps her rest a little easier.

“It’s all about the landlord and what they are willing to do. So if you are a landlord, give us a break. Give us a chance. I know most of us won’t disappoint you,” shared Osterhaus.

Dane County official Casey Becker confirmed the County’s role in the program, providing the following information regarding the program’s success so far:

1.       Over 400 unique households have been served by non-congregate shelter. This number is likely higher due to lack of data from the earliest days of the program when the pandemic response first began.

2.       The stability that hotel shelter has provided has assisted many households with obtaining housing and connection to other community supports such as employment, economic assistance, behavioral health supports, and medical care. Since Q3 of 2021, 167 households have exited hotel shelter and into housing. Since the beginning of the program (Late March of 2020), 257 households exited hotel shelter and obtained housing.

Another County official says their portion of the program has been extended until September 30th.