He says he wants to help, that he sympathizes, but that the city is simply too strapped for cash and resources to do anything more to help. He blames the Walker Administration and the state and federal level destruction of social welfare programs. He says that's where we should look if we want to place blame for the steady increase in the number of people left out in the cold, and certainly Walker Co. has been no friend to sane, compassionate projects.
An article in today's Capital Times does a good job of looking at the current state of affairs as regards the homeless population in Madison. In it, there are quotes from Soglin that could have come from any number of interviews he's given on the subject over the last year or two:
"I’m flattered that people as usual think that their city government, the most responsive and accessible unit of government, is expected to solve the problem," he says icily. "But certain problems, because of cost and mobility issues, cannot be solved at the local level." Advocates for the homeless should instead direct their complaints to Gov. Scott Walker and Republican members of Congress, Soglin says. "We’re watching at the state and federal level the wholesale breakdown of support systems," he says.
I think we're all too prone to passing the buck when things get hairy, and especially when there's a big ol' bureaucracy involved. No, Madison government can't solve all of the problems. But the fact of the matter is that is is possible to make positive change even in small, incremental ways if we just set our minds to it.
Take the Little Houses project that's being undertaken right now, and the initiative to allow private landowners to allow a certain amount of camping on their land. Everything helps. Sitting around throwing our hands into the air does not.
It's not just Soglin, of course, and his flaw seems mostly to be that he's terrible at talking about the issue (I don't doubt that he cares, deep down). There are a lot of people in this city, many of them well-placed within government, neighborhood associations, and the business community, who are actively stymieing efforts to make real change, and that would rather sweep the problem under the proverbial rug than deal with it head-on.
This is not what "community" is supposed to be about.
We should know by now, too, that ignoring a problem like the wholesale disenfranchisement and displacement of an entire class of human beings only leads to bigger problems for everyone down the line. We should know by now that a rising tide does lift all ships. But we make the same mistakes, over and over again.
Perhaps it's time we redirected some of the millions of dollars earmarked for something like the controversial Judge Doyle Square development project to, say, finally building that new shelter.
Heck, even providing a storage locker facility would go a long way toward alleviating some of the immediate needs of folks without permanent addresses.
Oh and, maybe don't gut funding for the Tenant Resource Center while we're at it.
I'm somewhat heartened by the inclusion in the 2014 Capital Budget of funding for a project that could provide permanent housing to 100 homeless individuals. I really and truly hope it goes through and gets done. It shows there are people thinking about and working on this issue at the city level, and that we do have the capacity to act when we want to.
Regardless, while those of us with roofs over our heads continue to argue, too many of men, women, and children continue to go without.