Several Dane County Board supervisors want to stop stepped-up efforts to prevent homeless people from sleeping in front of the City-County Building.
But the co-chairs of the City-County Liaison Committee, which oversees operations at the building, still support a new ban that began Thursday night with Madison police telling people they can’t sleep outside the facility or the Madison Municipal Building across the street.
Sup. Heidi Wegleitner, District 2, and 11 other board members have sent a memorandum to Mayor Paul Soglin, County Executive Joe Parisi and the committee asking officials to rescind the new effort to enforce trespassing and loitering policies at the facilities, which are gathering places for the homeless, especially for sleeping at night.
The committee leadership was not persuaded.
“We closed the area to camping for very good reasons: health and safety,” Ald. Mark Clear, who co-chairs the City-County Liaison Committee with Sup. Mary Kolar, said Friday. “Neither of us has any interest in reopening this issue. The worst way to combat homelessness would be to reopen an unsafe, unsanitary, unsheltered area to camping.”
No one slept in the area and no tickets were issued Thursday night, Madison police Central District Capt. Carl Gloede said Friday. “Hopeful that it continues that way,” he said. “We will continue to monitor for compliance.”
The ban, proposed by Soglin and supported by Parisi, has come as a relief to those raising concerns about behavior problems and health risks on the landing and front steps to the City-County Building, which faces Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and the Municipal Building across the street. Homeless advocates fear many of the dozens who sleep there will scatter to places that are less safe.
The area has been viewed as a shelter of last resort and attractive to the homeless because it’s lighted, has a roof and is near police.
Former Ald. Brenda Konkel, a longtime advocate for the homeless, on Thursday was handing out printouts from the website of Cathedral Parish — the name given to three Downtown Catholic congregations — suggesting the green space where St. Raphael’s Cathedral once stood only blocks away could be an option.
The cathedral at 204 W. Main St. was destroyed by arson in 2005 and razed in 2008. In 2012, the site was remade into a public space with walking path commemorating Christ’s final hours. Konkel had underlined language on the handout saying the park is available “to all our neighbors as a place of beauty for prayer, reflection or rest,” and inviting all “to visit and pray privately at any time.”
You have free articles remaining.
But the use of the site as an encampment had not been discussed with the Cathedral Parish or Catholic Diocese of Madison, which learned the printouts were being distributed and placed “no trespassing” signs there Friday, diocese spokesman Brent King said.
“We have serious concerns about security, sanitation and liability at the moment, and there would need to be a great deal of dialogue with the city before we could even contemplate doing anything else at this site,” King said.
In their memo, the 11 County Board members said enforcement should be suspended and the ban rescinded because “many still cannot access overnight shelter and have no other options.”
Some men have been banned from a drop-in shelter operated by Porchlight at Grace Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, and the shelter for women and families at the Salvation Army on East Washington Avenue has limited staff and space, the memo says.
Further, some people can’t use shelters because crowding, noise and inadequate privacy make symptoms of their disabilities worse, it says.
“As of today, there is no plan in place to identify those without shelter access before we displace them,” the memo says. “Please rescind your CCB trespass and loitering enforcement policy as soon as possible and work with us to prioritize real solutions like Housing First, a comprehensive day resource center, and an aggressive expansion of affordable housing.”
The county has long targeted outreach — doing assessments and linking the homeless to housing opportunities, alcohol and drug treatment and mental health services — around the area in front of the building. Late this summer, it stepped up efforts to contact those who frequent the area.
The city and county have adopted Housing First, which attempts to get people into housing and then link them to services, officials said Friday.
The Community Development Authority is partnering with Porchlight for eight units at Truax Park on the East Side that will open this month, city officials said. Porchlight also plans to add units on Lien Road on the East Side in the next year.
The city’s budget for 2015 and long-term capitol improvement plan envision creating 1,000 units of housing for the homeless and low-income workers over five years, including 60 units of permanent supportive housing for single adults being built at 709 Rethke Ave. and another project for families planned for the West Side.