Madison and Dane County are feuding over the need for a day shelter for homeless people.
On Friday, Mayor Paul Soglin fired off a letter (PDF) to Dane County executive Joe Parisi, complaining that the county hadn't consulted with the city before announcing it was considering running a day shelter this winter at 1439 Wright St., off East Washington Avenue near Madison College's Truax campus.
Soglin wrote that associated, if not direct, costs from the county-owned facility would fall to the city. "I have made it clear that the city of Madison does not have the resources or the responsibility to take care of Dane County's and Wisconsin's homeless population."
In a news conference Monday, Parisi responded to Soglin's criticism, saying, "We're coming up on winter. The last thing we need is for someone to end up frozen to death in a snowbank."
Two usual haunts for the homeless -- the downtown library (which is being renovated) and the Capitol basement (closed since the protests) -- are now off limits, meaning many homeless could end up spending freezing winter days outdoors.
"The city has done nothing to address this critical need that we have coming up this winter," Parisi says. "We're doing what we need to do to make sure people have a place to stay warm this winter."
In an interview, Soglin says day shelters cause serious problems that spill into surrounding neighborhoods. He says he knows of two homeless people who died last summer, but none who died the past two winters.
"It doesn't take freezing weather to kill a homeless person," Soglin says. "Substance abuse, mental illness untreated are the real killers."
The city should be focusing on long-term solutions, Soglin says. "I think there's a need to deal with chronic homelessness and to make it clear that transitional and permanent housing is the solution. And that's the focus for the city of Madison."Last Saturday, members of Occupy Madison -- which sparked interest in a day shelter with its encampment on East Washington Avenue last winter -- demonstrated on Park Street, calling for a day shelter.
Bruce Wallbaum, an Occupy activist, remains frustrated: "People's lives are at stake here and they're having these political battles."