LETTER TO MADISON’S COMMON COUNSEL
Our mission at YWCA Madison is to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. Our foundational values of Humanity, Community, Restoration, and Growth guide our actions and advocacy. With this belief system and energy within us, we strongly support building a shelter for our community’s men who are experiencing homelessness, and we urge you to vote in support of accepting funding for the purchase of the shelter. This proposed shelter is in proximity to jobs, public transportation, hotels, and other services to meet the needs of our men who are experiencing homelessness.
Housing is a human right, shelter is the minimum. The dire need for homeless shelters and services has long existed in Madison. Homelessness is not a result of individual failure, it is a symptom of deeper structural issues like capitalism, racism, and poverty just to name a few. For the last decade, the cost of housing in Madison has skyrocketed, making affordable housing scarcer and inaccessible for many. In addition, Madison’s housing vacancy rate has consistently been under 4%, an incredibly low rate that makes any rental housing difficult to obtain and allows landlords to pick and choose between applicants.
This is the reality of life in our city which has only been exacerbated by the Covid19 pandemic. People have been pushed out of their jobs and their homes and into more dangerous, vulnerable, and inhumane situations. We know the eviction moratorium ends, we will have an even larger population of people experiencing homelessness with limited places to turn to. Madisonians deserve better.
The proposed men’s overnight shelter will address this immediate humanitarian need by providing stability, safety, security for men experiencing homelessness. The shelter will not only be a physical place for these men to be, but it will also allow the city to provide comprehensive services to support their path toward permanent housing, employment, and other needs. We know many of these people have jobs, children in schools, and goals they are working toward which fill their daily schedules. This shelter will provide the basic dignity and respect deserved by our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
In Dane County, Black and/or African Americans make up, only 5.5% of the county’s population but are 52% of those experiencing homelessness, according to the “Point in Time Count of Homelessness Madison/Dane County Report” in January 2020. The perceived fear and stigmatization of individuals experiencing homelessness is a pretext for racism and discrimination and is rooted in anti-blackness. People experiencing homelessness pose no greater security danger than any other population. In fact, individuals experiencing homelessness are much more likely to be victims of crimes and violence due to their vulnerable state. With supportive services, men at this shelter can build caring and safe relationships with staff, each other, and the community.
The contradictory, NIMBY excuses against the shelter are cyclical, racist, classist, and nothing new– either the neighborhood is too residential and will impact families and property values, or the neighborhood is too commercial and the shelter will have a chilling impact on business. Either the location is too close to downtown where there is already a saturation of services, or it’s too far away from services downtown. We urge you to see these excuses for what they are, attempts at “othering” people experiencing homelessness, and mindsets that value business and economy over vulnerable human beings.
This men’s shelter is urgently needed. Please vote in support of building a men’s shelter in Madison.
About YWCA Madison
YWCA Madison is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen our community. YWCA Madison is part of an international movement serving over 2 million in the United States and 25 million worldwide. For comprehensive information about this important work, go to www.ywcamadison.org and www.ywca.org.