Community summit focuses on city homelessness

Originally Posted on The Badger Herald » News via UWIRE

Around 125 Madison community and business members, service providers and city speakers gathered to address the city’s homelessness problem at an all-day summit Tuesday.

Hosted by the Leadership of Greater Madison, the summit focused on finding and discussing improvements for homelessness and involved associations including United Way, Salvation Army and Downtown Madison Inc., event organizer Martin Day said.

According to Sue Wallinger, a coordinator for homeless services in Madison, approximately 450 single men, 95 single women and 68 families are currently homeless in the city.

Steve Berg, a representative from the National Alliance to End Homelessness out of Washington, D.C., who was a keynote speaker at the summit, emphasized the importance and effectiveness of community organizing when addressing homelessness.

“Those that have had success have focused on an organized, systematic approach,” Berg said at the event. “You need good programs, but you also need everyone pulling together towards the same goal.”

The summit took into account discussions ranging from affordable housing, day shelters, medical panels, homeless veterans and schools for the homeless, Day said.

Brenda Konkel, an advocate for the homeless, said she was pleased by the way the community responded to Berg’s ideas.

“It’s always encouraging to see people come together and truly believe in a common goal,” Konkel said.

Day said solid progress was made throughout the day toward solving some of these issues, adding that to solve the homelessness problem in Madison as a whole, all aspects need to be addressed when devising a plan.

“Solutions directed at only one group of people will not ultimately fix the problem because it fails to take the other important issues into account,” Day said. “Everyone needs to receive attention, whether it’s men, women, families or people with medical emergencies.”

Despite the generalization that the majority of homeless people come from different cities for Madison’s services, Wallinger said statistics show only 1 to 3 percent of people using Madison’s shelters have been there for less than a month.

Day said all representatives and leaders agreed on the need to be upfront about the problems at hand and recognized homelessness is not an issue to be shied away from.

“We need to ask the hard questions and address the hard issues in order to find an effective solution and improve people’s lives,” Day said. “The homeless are members of our community, and helping those in need is not only a moral duty, but it keeps the community strong.”

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