The Twilight Zone: The Madison Homeless Shelter System
By David Gegenhuber
Submitted for your approval: Madison, the progressive city and state capitol of Wisconsin. Here, one will find a great university of learning, booming industries and successful businesses, clean streets and friendly people. A city with a can-do attitude.
But lying beneath the eye view of this dynamic city is a dark, sometimes hidden, frequently ignored element of society here. Sometimes you see in the parks, sometimes you see it in the streets. Often times you see it in dank, dirty church basements or spaces inadequate to serve as a solution to the demands of eliminating this dark element. Many people and organizations try to ease the effect of this darkness, but the city leaders turn a blind eye and hope this shadowy component of their city would just go away. This element is known as homelessness.
Herein lies the gap between both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. The solutions come slowly, always temporary. Sixty days to sleep and move on or you’re out. Only five months during the day in the cold winter months, with a few resources to move on and you’re out. Then even fewer resources for the next seven months.
Beyond this smattering of help is another dimension: the streets. Sleeping in the parks. Sleeping under bridges. Sleeping in doorways. Anywhere to sleep but there’s always a chance for consequences. Organizations try to help, but their resources are limited, too. The city wants this element to go away. The city wants us to go away. Nevermind the reasons for being there. Go away. We don’t want you here. Not in my backyard.
There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to this city. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination and vision. Solutions. A permanent 365 day/24 hour homeless shelter full of resources to help these men and women move on with their lives. Become productive and have their own backyards. Give them a break. Give them a real chance. Give them the resources they need to get out of this element of life that, as the system exists now, they can only describe as living in the Twilight Zone.
With apologies to and great admiration for the late Rod Serling.