Mayor, county executive spar over day shelter

County proposes location on Madison's east side
Mayor, county executive spar over day shelter

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said the homeless issue runs past his city’s limits, so a county-proposed day shelter should not be in Madison.

“The vast majority of these homeless individuals are not Madisonians,” Soglin said. “I’m really getting tired of people telling the city that we the city have to deal with our homeless problems.”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and others, citing the need for a day shelter solution as winter approaches, have proposed a county-owned building at 1439 Wright St. on the city’s east side.

The proposal is the latest in a string of temporary shelters after the state Capitol building became off-limits to the homeless and Madison’s downtown library closed for remodeling. A permanent shelter, which others in the community advocate for, has been long talked-about but never acted upon.

“The last thing we need is for someone to end up frozen to death in a snow bank,” Parisi said. “We’re looking at a number of different sites that people may be able to go during the day so they can stay warm.”

Soglin and Parisi’s office gave different statistics about where the homeless come from, with Soglin saying fewer than 25 percent are from Madison.

Parisi’s office sent WISC-TV data from the mayor’s office that indicate 59 percent of single men, 56 percent of single women and 48 percent of homeless families list Madison as their most recent permanent address.

In many cases, that may be Madison — even if the person is from elsewhere, Soglin said.

“These, in effect, are (other people’s) homeless,” he said. “They’re your homeless from Adams County, Milwaukee County, from outside the state and from within Dane County — outside the city of Madison.”

Soglin did not name a specific alternative site, but said the homeless problem “is a nice place to share” with the suburbs. Buses could run to whichever location is chosen, he said.

Parisi criticized that as an unrealistic solution.

“Unfortunately, the city, for better or worse, has done nothing to move forward to address this critical need we have this winter,” he said.

The homeless often can find overnight shelter to sleep but many of those places do not allow them to stay during the day. Homeless people have scattered during the summer, including to a tent city at Lake Farm Park near Lake Waubesa.

Some are proposing a government-run permanent shelter that provides more comprehensive services for the homeless. Activists rallied Saturday at a former military facility at 1402 S. Park Street in Madison, a building they want used for such a shelter.

But the issue is a nonstarter because the facility is still federally owned, Soglin said.