Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hizzoner is not a diplomat

Hoo boy, this is going to start some fires. As if this issue wasn't contentious enough. Email today direct from Mayor Soglin himself, regarding the ongoing debate over the presence of homeless people at the City County Building downtown (and how the city treats homeless folks in general):

Last night about 5:20 when I returned to the City-County Building from the Board of Estimates meeting a heated dispute was taking place at the chairs adjacent to the entrance to the Park Division office. 
Sitting on the left was Man A. He was talking on his cell phone at the time and continued to do so during the entire incident. Sitting in the center was Woman B. Wearing a gray hat she refused to move. Sitting next to her and closest to the door to the Parks Division office was Woman C. She was yelling at Woman B and telling her to get up and leave. Standing over Woman B was Man D who was yelling in a threatening manner at Woman B ordering her to move. 
I stopped to watch the incident and when it became clear the matter was escalating, called 911. Before the officers arrived, woman B got up from the chair, staggered over to Woman C and continued to yell at her. Man D took the center seat and asserted his claim that the chair was his. Man A continued with his phone call. I could hear him saying that the background noise was because of an argument. 
Woman B, Woman C and Man D continued to argue. As the police officers arrived Woman C threw a punch at Woman B. 
We can build and spend money on more libraries, day shelters, night shelters, restroom facilities and none of these behaviors are going to change. The people of Madison deserve better. Therapy, treatment, and counseling, with constant supervision are needed for a significant number of people who hang out in this building and the surrounding area. No number of shelters or amount of money is going to address their needs unless it is focused on treatment for mental health and substance abuse matters. Frankly I see no sense in spending public money for buildings, shelter, day centers, or housing for individuals who will either refuse to use them or will be banned from them for behavior reasons. 
Someone has some explaining to do. Why is there no treatment, voluntary or compulsory? 
If the individuals in question had not been fighting and arrested they could have gone up to the third floor where the City-County Liaison Committee was meeting and joined in the testimony that a security guard was not needed in the lobby. It appears that at least one of these individuals was involved in a fight on Friday. 
Paul R. Soglin - Mayor City of Madison 
He's right that a lot more money and focus needs to go toward mental health and substance abuse treatment, I absolutely agree. But throwing shelter facilities and other resources for the homeless under the bus in the process is incredibly wrongheaded and short-sighted. Not all homeless people are mentally unwell and/or addicts. And even those that are will need resources for seeking out services and then being able to access those services on a regular, reliable basis.

It would be nice if the discussion about these issues could be had without needlessly inflammatory sniping (the Mayor is not the only guilty party here). Too many people's actual lives and well-being are on the line.

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