Mayor proposes paying for homeless travel

Soglin believes it will be beneficial to homeless
Mayor proposes paying for homeless travel

Madison mayor Paul Soglin wants the city to pay for a ticket out of town for the homeless. 

He said it’s part of the solution for the issue, but others think the plan is just moving the problem instead of dealing with it.

Soglin is looking to set aside $25,000 in the city budget to cover travel expenses for people he says are stranded in Madison without a support system.

“You can’t do it if you’re isolated and homeless in a strange community,”  Soglin said.

According to Soglin, anyone seeking help from the program would have to prove they have family, close friends, and past connections to the community before the city signs the check for any bus fares or food on the road.

Soglin believes an initiative like this will be especially beneficial to people living on the streets with addictions or mental illness.

“In terms of their success and rehabilitation in therapy and treatment, it’s more likely to work, again, surrounded by a community of family and friends,”  Soglin said.

Soglin says handing over tickets is a much more efficient and effective way to deal with the problem of homelessness in the city, especially the cost of authorities to handle the problems surrounding the issue.

The plan’s skeptics, including District One Alder Lisa Subeck, say a program like Helping Hands Homeward only moves the problem to another community instead of dealing with it directly.

“It seems like a really cruel and heartless way to handle the situation. Certainly I would prefer that we fight homelessness, and I think the mayor would prefer that we fight the homeless,”  Subeck said.

Subeck says Soglin has always been partial to “Greyhound therapy.” 

She adds the money would be much better spent on community service-based programs that tackle issues, like domestic violence and addiction, which often lead to homelessness.

“Instead of saying, ‘Where can we send you?,’ we need to say, ‘How can we help you get a leg up?'” Subeck said.

Attempts to talk to Porchlight about this proposal were unsuccessful.

Major Loren Carter at Salvation Army says he has seen this kind of program supported and successful, but it is crucial to ensure people have a stable network of people and resources in place at their destination.  Carter declined the opportunity to go on camera.

Leaders at YWCA say this method of relocation will not solve the homelessness issue, adding that not enough people would even take advantage of the program to make any significant change to the number of homeless people on the streets.