Winter is Coming; Services and Housing for People Living Outside Cannot Wait

October 05, 2021
County Board Supervisor Elizabeth Doyle, Health and Human Needs Chair, (608) 616-0698
County Board

Last week, the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee delayed action on 2021 Resolution 156 for several weeks, until after the 2022 County Budget. On Friday, County Executive Parisi announced a number of items to address housing insecurity and support people experiencing homelessness. His proposed budget includes some of the strategies set forth in Res. 156, but the housing funding was at substantially reduced amounts. Health and Human Needs (HHN) Committee Chair Elizabeth Doyle, who represents Downtown Madison and is a co-sponsor of the resolution, is encouraged by Parisi’s support for the strategies unanimously approved by HHN, but concerned by the lack of urgency shown by Parisi and other County leaders. "We must get to work now - before the coldest weeks of winter - to offer safe housing options to the 150 people who are living outside in our county," Doyle urges.


On August 19, 2021, District 2 Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner introduced 2021 Resolution 156 Pursuing Temporary and Permanent Housing Solutions for People Experiencing Homelessness and Authorizing Funding. The resolution allocates $7M in American Rescue Plan Act funding as follows: $250,000 to increase outreach services, $1.5M support a land purchase, development and operations of a new tiny house village, and $5.25M for purchasing buildings, including a hotel and/or existing apartment buildings for housing for people experiencing homelessness. The resolution has received support from a number of county committees and community groups, including the City-County Homeless Issues Committee, Board of Health, Environment, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee, Affordable Housing Action Alliance, Capitol Neighborhoods, Inc., and Downtown Madison, Inc.


The City of Madison has taken the lead on creating solutions outside the traditional shelter system over the last several months in response to the growing number of encampments in City parks. It is working to open a licensed campground with pallet shelters off of Dairy Drive, but the transitional program will only offer 30 sites, leaving over 100 people living outside without an option. The City’s plans do not include any options for car campers, something Resolution 156 seeks to address with an interagency staff team investigation and report on lawful camping and car-camping options. Linda Ketcham, Executive Director of Just Dane and Co-Chair of the City-County Homeless Issues Committee, has offered Just Dane’s support with this effort. "Over nine years ago, our organization recommended the County immediately pursue solutions for lawful car-camping. This has been delayed at the expense of very vulnerable people in our community," states Ketcham.


Additional tiny house villages can provide warm shelter to people who cannot or will not use congregate shelters. In late 2020, the County funded tiny houses and Occupy Madison was able to help 28 people move out of encampments and into heated homes. Alder Figueroa-Cole, who serves on the City-County Homeless Issues Committee which has unanimously supported the resolution, supports increased county funding for a new tiny house village and facility purchases to provide housing for people experiencing homelessness. "The City and County must increase our collaboration to support people experiencing homelessness. Adoption of Resolution 156 can’t happen soon enough."