Alder Brian Benford
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
WI Relay Service
Alder Benford’s Updates
Shelter from the storm!
Hello Friends and Neighbors!
I hope that this note finds you well. I must apologize ahead of time. This update is not typical but rather I want to write from my heart to let you know what I have been up to. I write this knowing that if I walked around District 6 and asked ten random people who their alderperson was, I would be surprised if three people would know this answer. This is still true desite us being represented by the most awesome Marsha R. If asked what an alderperson does, most people would have no clue. I say this knowing that District 6, has some of the most engaged and progressive voters in Wisconsin. Maybe about time that I leave office, at least half the people will know who I am and what the heck I am doing.
Starting a week before I was sworn in on April 20th, all incoming alders had opportunities for new alder orientations with various city agencies and lead staff. While I had served as an alder in the past, so much has changed yet so much has stayed the same. There are many new faces within city government but the issues of homelessness, poverty and horrendous racial disparities have grown. I have met many amazing, passionate, involved neighbors that have taken time to educate me on key issues; helping to guide my service. We have begun the District 6 Leadership Lab where we are taking emerging leaders (especially high school age youth) and pairing them with seasoned leaders to make positive changes in our neighborhoods and to build the next generations of leaders.
And there's meetings, lots of meetings.
Speaking of, I would be remiss if I did not say that our last Common Council meeting left me anguishing for our city. You might know about the type of work that I have done for the last thirty years. Within many community-based settings, I have served vulnerable and marginalized children, parents, families and communities. There has not been a day that has gone by during the last three decades that I was not thinking about someone facing being houseless. Even today, with my work for the UW-Madison Odyssey Project, I spent the better part of the morning frantically searching for housing for one of my consumers. I have never needed to read a position paper or some memo detailing the plight of being houseless in Madison, I talk to our vulnerable neighbors each day.
For years I have witnessed housing advocates, some faith-based institutions, community-based organizations and other non-profits work tirelessly to serve our homeless neighbors. They serve with hardly any recognition and even littler pay. For years and years, these dedicated selfless community servants had pushed local government to respond to the growing houseless population. Under new leadership, city staff had attempted to find and secure a site that could be a beautiful, transformational place of healing. Countless hours had went in to the searching, researching, and trying desperately to find a place that had the potential to save lives. City staff worked under the context that there was such thing as the "perfect" location because no matter where the shelter was considered, we would see the same, often times racist and ignorant opposition as we did last Tuesday.
Being a budget amendment, after decades of need, we just needed 15 votes to signal hope to all the houseless men, their service providers and housing advocates as a whole. Our efforts failed! In the future when I hear critiques that our city does not care about homeless men. I will point out that there were five alders that delayed this much needed step in helping houseless men to reach their full potentials, not the city. It appeared to me that the main argument against our Zeier Rd. shelter was that it was the wrong location. I bristled every time I heard that it was too far from services or that the shelter would have depressed property values. You would think that some folks on the council or public are wanna be social workers or social scientists. The greatest need to addressing the challenges that houseless men face is shelter. All healing begins with a warm, safe, supportive place to lay your head at night. You would have to be completely naïve to think that no matter where we –hopefully in my life-time-build a shelter, people are still going to panhandle and ask for money where they perceive there are people with disposable incomes-like by a mall, Willy St. Coop, State Street.
To all the housing advocates, social workers, peer counselors, volunteers, members of faith based communities and all my friends and colleagues within all the community-based organizations that serve our brothers, uncles, fathers, sons, cousins and grandfathers that are houseless, I am deeply sorry by the slap in our collective faces. To the men that we serve, I vow to keep fighting and to expose the hypocrisy that has prevented us from securing a site after decades of extreme need.
Email to a friend