THE PROBLEM: Dane County’s patchwork of services for the homeless is strained, if not overwhelmed, with prioritized lists for housing standing at about 770 single adults and 560 families. By one estimate, the number of homeless statewide can swell to 20,000 on any given night. The response at the local and state levels has been hampered by a lack of leadership, organization and resources.
WHAT’S HAPPENING: The community is slowly embracing Housing First. The decades-old Dane County Homeless Services Consortium is following federal mandates to coordinate intake for shelter, prioritize housing lists for singles and families, and have a board of directors responsible for annual homeless counts, goals and outcomes. The consortium recently adopted a new plan to end homelessness, though it lacks community buy-in. The city and county joined Zero:2016, a national effort to end chronic and veteran homelessness, but is short of goals.
- An empowered Homeless Services Consortium board including the mayor, county executive and major players from the private sector.
- Broader community buy-in for new plan to end homelessness.
- A city-county office to end homelessness and a grant writer to find more resources.
- More funding for street outreach and case management.
- Holding social service agencies accountable.
- Mental health and substance abuse treatment on demand.
- Funds for eviction prevention and security deposits.
- A different funding model and more reliance on data.
WHAT COULD HELP AT STATE LEVEL
- A council chaired by the governor or lieutenant governor, including department heads from all agencies that touch homelessness.
- A state plan to end homelessness, with metrics.
- An office to end homelessness to coordinate activities.
- Strengthening the Wisconsin Coalition for the Homeless.
- Increasing the minimum wage.
- Take advantage of federal policy to let Medicaid pay for services for the chronically homeless.
- More funds for eviction prevention, emergency shelter, support services for permanent housing, job training and housing.
- Minneapolis and Hennepin County created a broad task force that chartered a 10-year plan to end homelessness and established an Office to End Homelessness.
- Minnesota developed a State Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness guided by an interagency council of 11 state department heads. The Legislature invested $145 million in bonding to create or preserve 8,000 units of affordable housing. State created an Office to Prevent and End Homelessness and established a funders collaborative. A strong coalition for the homeless promotes bipartisan solutions.
- Connecticut, the first state to end chronic veteran homelessness, created a statewide plan, implemented coordinated access to resources across the state, established a “front door” hotline in each community, gathers data, and has seen a substantial investment of state resources.