“Providing Better Services”
By Ronnie Barbett
I haven’t been happy here from Day One, and yes, I must admit that at one point in time I had an escape mechanism. I thought it was insensitive and ridiculous…it was “The Greyhound Therapy” package offered by the Mayor of Madison, Paul Soglin. I forgive him because he actually presented a reasonable solution to overcrowding the system that deals with homelessness (i.e. those organizations out there struggling already with the homeless.) A person going back to his place of origin to settle back into the life he/she knew has its rewards, but I’m glad the city-county people changed that plan. The Mayor has insight, and yes, he’s done good for low-income and homeless people. I think he was part of some award winning-like solutions some time ago. I heard him speak at the Warner Park Homeless Services Consortium. He is a good man…you have to give him the benefit of a doubt. He was, I believe, the person to go to during the summer heat-wave where the camping out at the beautiful Monona Terrace took place. His partnership with the Common Councils’ use of the fund (contingency reserve) to cover the cost of the low-income bus pass alone makes this man a hero in my book…a $58 pass for $27.50 is a heck of a deal. A big company such as Metro Transit is nowhere close when it comes to looking out for the homeless. This is one of the main reasons I would allow for street panhandling around State Street area or anywhere near a Metro bus stop.
When it comes to looking out for the homeless, this city fails in comparison to what other cities realize and are doing. In Madison…the time used for police enforcement and their ways of carrying it out cost time and money; the paramedics cost time and money; add on the fee of detox, hospitalization, and medication cost money; the parks enforcing their rules and regulations cost in time and money; the Mall and city concourse crew that snatches the homeless precious and valuable gear, storing and/or trashing it cost time and money; all the entities (The University of Wisconsin, restaurants, libraries, etc.) that on certain days that deal with the survival plans of the homeless for shelter, cover from the elements, storage, a bird bath facility, etc! Time and money is used to discipline the homeless.
Discrimination is to discipline the homeless. Discrimination is such a fine line, isn’t it? We all know the answer is to get these people off the streets. It’s not rocket science. I admit that the attitude of homeless people is worth a case study…brought on by negative reinforcement to being homeless. Punishment is not working, is it? Counseling helps, right? Right! All the organizations funded by the Dane County Human Services Department needs to have access to the many files and paperwork on the homeless people that you serve. Guess what?!?! I bet you will find that most of their cases are still ongoing. Why? Because these organizations made two big mistakes: First, they didn’t get enough money. Second, they did not give the people a home or apartment, covered completely from what could go wrong.
If all the organizations dealing with the homeless issue were available nearby (in a complex) close to the people they serve (Example: a 24-hour, 365 day shelter), it would save the city money by knocking out most attitude problems present in homeless people. Well-funded counseling and daily monitoring would produce a steady, calming effect on the people being watched. There is a need for a homeless shelter complete with funding that pays all the bills. You have to admit that a good talking to, reinforced by housing and job interviews, will busy a person who needs change. A well-paid counselor with a person’s file can collaborate with that person’s other counselor within the same complex. This would help give a homeless person a sense of purpose, and he/she would spend less time on the corner getting high with friends.
Don’t give up on the homeless! If he/she falls out of a counseling program, the counselors within this shelter system will already have a plan B, another program ready for the homeless person to tap into. So much can be accomplished by getting these “undesirables” off the street. The counselors have to be aware of all possibilities to help the homeless…even the Greyhound Therapy Plan could help. Every strategy is to serve a purpose to end homelessness. A good counselor, skilled in mediating and troubleshooting family disputes, can work to this city’s advantage; convincing a love one to reconcile with his parents, his wife and kids, and/or family that he left or they pushed him out is an option for reducing the overflow of the homeless. We can try to convince those homeless that work and drink excessively to start a bank savings account from which to withdraw rent when it’s due.
I can even envision a day-care facility inside this 24-hour, 365 permanent shelter, which would pay homeless women a stipend for babysitting her kids and others’ kids during the day. Homeless couples need a space also. I camped outside the Home Savings Bank during the summer months. Along side me was a couple refusing indoor separate shelters. How they can shower, do laundry, get cleaned for a job (which would lead to getting an apartment)? It actually depends on a good caring counselor while they are provided the opportunity of the complex shelter I mentioned. People, down and out, need paid advisors to stay on them, monitoring their predicament until it is solved. All the organizations that deal with the homeless issue need to get better, providing better services. All the people working at these organizations should be asked to submit their observations. People are complaining about the homeless activity occurring on the streets of their neighborhoods. Homeless people’s negative habits are a problem that housing can solve!