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Tree Lane housing development (copy)

A housing project for homeless families on Tree Lane has attracted police attention for fights, parties and loud music.

With a goal of stabilizing operations at a troubled west side apartment complex for formerly homeless families, Madison’s Finance Committee on Monday approved spending $275,250 for family support services and authorizing case management services and youth programming at Tree Lane Family Apartments.

The 45-unit complex at 7933 Tree Lane is the city’s second investment in permanent supportive housing, which combines stable housing with on-site services and case management, and the first to serve formerly homeless families.

Since the apartment complex opened in June 2018, police calls for service at the property have remained high, culminating in the city pursuing a chronic nuisance action against the property’s owner, Heartland Housing.  

“With chronically homeless families, you’re dealing with a lot of traumas,” Heartland Housing Executive Director Michael Goldberg said. “One of the things that’s clear is to support these families, we really do need additional funding for additional supportive services.”

The proposed budget for supportive services at Tree Lane for all of 2019 is $520,250. As the current service provider, the YWCA of Madison would receive $36,250.

The remaining $484,000 covers the period from March through December. Of this funding, $90,000 comes from Heartland Housing's property budget, $355,250 from the city and $75,000 from the United Way. 

Support services, two case managers and a supervisor are currently provided to Tree Lane residents by the YWCA. They are funded with $90,000 from Heartland, $50,000 from the city and $25,000 from the United Way.

However at the end of 2018, the YWCA informed Heartland that it would withdraw from its role as support service provider by March 15.  

YWCA CEO Vanessa McDowell said her organization dropped out, in part, due to a lack of enough funding to adequately support the needs of Tree Lane residents. McDowell said she wants to make sure whoever is providing services next at Tree Lane is financially supported.

Without elaborating, McDowell said there were other factors that did not align with the YWCA’s mission that contributed to the organization withdrawing from its role at Tree Lane.

“Going forward at Tree Lane, people need support,” McDowell said. “They don’t need to be policed. To provide community and to provide the funding necessary for that building to succeed and for those residents to succeed is what matters.”

Under the resolution, the Road Home Dane County would provide case management and supportive services for up to six months or until the city identifies a longer-term partner.

Lussier Community Education Center and the Wisconsin Youth Company-Elver Park Neighborhood Center would provide youth-oriented programming on an interim basis for the 104 children currently living at the apartment complex.

While these organizations provide interim services, the city would conduct a request for proposal process to secure long-term service providers.

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The RFP process would identify an on-site team, which would include two full-time case managers, a youth services coordinator, a lead worker or supervisor and provide the means to offer supportive mental health services, youth programming and other assistance necessary to help residents achieve long-term housing stability.

The city is also considering $165,000 for additional security at Tree Lane. The city’s Finance Committee has approved the measure, which would fund one security officer on site after work hours and on weekends for 2019.

“A more stable and secure environment lays the groundwork for an environment that those support services can be most effective,” Community Development Director Jim O’Keefe said.

Mayor Paul Soglin and Heartland Housing representatives have stressed that the additional security is mean to be a short-term solution. 

“Ultimately, the goal is for the solution not to be a security solution. It should be a service-based solution,” Goldberg said.

The City Council is scheduled to take up both resolutions for support services and security funding at its meeting on Feb. 26. If the funds are approved, the remaining balance in the 2019 Contingent Reserve would be $1.49 million. 

In November, Soglin assigned Deputy Mayor Gloria Reyes to Tree Lane and formed a response team with representatives from the city’s Department of Planning, Community and Economic Development, the Madison Police Department; YWCA, Heartland Housing and MPI Security to work with the Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, who represents the district, to propose recommendations to improve conditions at Tree Lane.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.