City Moves Forward on Help for Unsheltered
Earlier this year, the Common Council and I tasked City staff with developing alternatives to support members of our community experiencing homelessness who were living in City parks. We, of course, have shelter facilities – spacious, clean, safe venues that are operating at about 50% capacity. But there are people without housing who cannot, or choose not, to use shelter. So, we asked City staff to develop safer, legal alternatives to those not using shelters.
Earlier this fall, we embarked upon establishing the City’s first urban campground at Dairy Drive. It will open within weeks, providing safe spaces for 30 people.
This resolution puts forth another alternative – using a local hotel to provide temporary accommodations for homeless persons.
- It will be co-located with a similar initiative being operated by Dane County.
- It will provide rooms for 35 additional people – taking advantage of all the remaining usable rooms at that property.
- It will offer 24-hour support services provided by Focus Counseling, the local service provider that Dane County has used since Spring 2020 for its hotel shelter program, to help connect people to housing.
The Dairy Drive and hotel shelter facilities will be implemented in tandem. They will prioritize the group of campers, identified through a census completed in late October at the City’s request, including persons who have been camping at Reindahl Park. Outreach partners will discuss these options individually with campers to determine which option might work best. We anticipate these moves being completed by early December, paving the way to undertake an extensive clean-up at Reindahl before snow accumulates. It is then the City’s intention to resume enforcing the no camping ordinance in parks.
It is important to view these measures as only part of the City’s response to the hardships housing insecurity poses for our residents and the unsheltered. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the City’s response to homelessness has been innovative and robust.
- We transformed our approach to sheltering single men, using City facilities to create safer, temporary shelters.
- We are committed to developing the City’s first purpose-built men’s shelter, and making it more welcoming and accessible to those in need.
- We helped The Salvation Army create an expanded, temporary shelter for families experiencing homelessness, and expand capacity at the women’s shelter.
- We supported and facilitated creation of the second OM Village, and remain committed to further expansion of the Tiny House model.
- We increased funding to expand street outreach to people experiencing homelessness across the city and link them to needed services.
We have more to do and our success will depend on close collaboration with Dane County and other community partners.