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Dane County officials announce $13M program to house homeless staying in hotels

Dane County officials announce $13M program to house homeless staying in hotels

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Dane County officials announced Friday a multiyear, $13 million program to permanently house homeless families and individuals who are currently staying in hotels due to the pandemic.

The program — funded entirely from federal dollars — could help pay the rent and utilities for up to two years for as many as 67 families and 230 individuals experiencing homelessness, said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

“This is an effort of historic proportion, both in funding levels and its comprehensive approach,” he said during an online news conference. “People experiencing homelessness are part of our community, and our community is going to come together to provide them with the opportunity to succeed.”

Since the onset of the pandemic last year, Dane County has partnered with service providers to put up vulnerable homeless families and individuals in hotel rooms to help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

As many as 400 people have used the hotel shelter system at one time, Parisi said, and about 90 people have found permanent housing from it.

But with the hotel shelter system expected to end in August, Dane County Board Chair Analiese Eicher said it’s important to move ahead with the “potentially life-changing initiative for our neighbors in need.”

The hotel rooms are funded through federal COVID-19 relief money through the end of August. The county expects the hotel shelter system to have cost $23 million by the end of summer.

A resolution to partner with Catholic Charities of Madison on the new program was introduced to the County Board on Thursday. Eicher expects it’ll be at the end of May or early June before it’s approved and rental assistance can begin flowing.

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Those who qualify for the hotel shelter system would be eligible for the new program.

The county is working to line up landlords who want to participate, Parisi said, and interested landlords should contact the county or Catholic Charities of Madison at or 608-826-8117.

“Any and all landlords who are willing to step forward and partner with us, their partnership will be greatly needed,” said Casey Becker, director of the county’s Housing Access and Affordability Division.

Federal dollars are expected to cover the entire cost of the $13 million program, with $2.5 million slated to be spent this year, $6.3 million in 2022 and the balance in 2023.

In addition to paying for rent, utilities and the cost of finding housing, Becker said the program would provide case management services to families and individuals.

She said the program is a “pretty natural fit” to the existing and future strategies Dane County and Madison are using to end homelessness, including a soon-to-open shelter for families on the Far East Side and a permanent men’s shelter planned for the East Towne Mall area.

“Shelter plays a really important role in keeping people safe and trying to create some stability for folks who are experiencing homelessness, but ultimately the solution is permanent housing,” Becker said.


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