Soglin: Madison becoming drop-off for state’s homeless

Police investigate municipalities bringing people to Madison to use city's resources
Soglin: Madison becoming drop-off for state’s homeless

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has spent time scrolling through pages of listed sex offenders, searching for those with addresses listed as a homeless shelter.

“There are other units of government that are not taking up their fair share of the responsibility, and in fact, because Madison has been a sensitive, caring, and generous community, other folks have taken advantage,” Soglin said.

Those other government agencies might include the state Department of Corrections and other communities across the state, Soglin said.

Soglin said Madison police are looking into three accounts in which individuals said they were dropped off in the city by other Wisconsin municipalities. Soglin would not say where these people said they came from, but said the city is assuming a disproportionate amount of responsibility for these people.

“It’s simply not fair,” Soglin said. “It’s not fair to the individuals, it’s not fair to our community, and it’s not fair that the good will of Madisonians should be abused that way.”

Additionally, the city is seeing an increased amount of violence associated with the homeless population. When addressing the issues on the 100 block of West Mifflin Street with council Tuesday, Soglin said Madison is the home to more sex offenders without identifiable addresses than Milwaukee.

At the same meeting, Madison Police Capt. Carl Gloede mentioned this year, 14 people labeled as violent offenders were placed at Grace Episcopal Church because they didn’t have a permanent residence.

Soglin said it’s becoming a matter of public safety, whether people with violent histories are coming to the city voluntarily or bused here from other cities and counties.

“Is the plan to simply let the person loose in Madison where there’s no responsibility?” Soglin said.

Soglin: Madison becoming drop-off for state’s homeless

Soglin plans to meet with the DOC to discuss the plans for people leaving prison. Those who run shelters in Madison said their facilities are not staffed to help those coming out of jail with a violent history. Places like Porchlight Inc. don’t turn people away or conduct background checks on the men who stay at their drop-in shelter. However, Executive Director Steven Schooler said the DOC has referred people directly to Porchlight.

“The discharge plan for the Department of Corrections is the men’s drop-in shelter, and we continue to tell them that that’s not the discharge plan or that should not be the discharge plan,” Schooler said.

DOC spokesperson Joy Staab sent the following statement Wednesday regarding conversations with the mayor:

Homelessness impacts many individuals, not just offenders on supervision. Representatives from the Department of Corrections contacted Mayor Soglin’s office today to discuss the DOC’s policies and procedures associated with assisting offenders find approved residences within their county of conviction. DOC leadership looks forward to meeting with Mayor Soglin in the near future to dispel any misconceptions and discuss strategies in which we can work together to increase community safety.

Soglin said he wants rules in place for state support of the area’s mental health and drug addiction programs, and a way to control who comes into the city planning to use those resources.

“I want to get assurance that there’s no disproportionate placements in Madison simply because this is the path of least resistance, because if it is, there will be resistance,” Soglin said.