This Monday, the City of Madison’s Community Development Division and the Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County announced they are seeking a consultant to update the Community Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
The plan, which was first developed in 2016, provided a set of shared goals and strategies to unify public and private agencies in their work to prevent and address houselessness in Dane County. Now, six years later, the plan requires adjustments.
“This year, it’s particularly important. Because of COVID, everything has changed. The shelters are different, the services are different, there’s been more money in our community through the federal programs. So, it’s really a good time for us to be looking at ‘What are our next steps forward?'” says Brenda Konkel, who serves as the President of the Board of the Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County.
The Consortium is a collaboration between nonprofits, grassroots groups, government agencies, faith-based organizations, and people who have experienced homelessness.
In fiscal year 2021, over 4,000 individuals received housing and homeless services in Dane County. While many challenges persist, Konkel stresses that the 2016 Plan has spurred significant changes in the past six years.
“Our men’s shelter is more trauma-informed, it’s lower barrier than what it used to be, so more people can get into it and they’re not turned away because they’re under the influence of substances, or other things. So, I think there’s been a lot of huge improvements in the shelter systems. We’ve also eliminated our 90 day limit. It used to be that people could only be in shelters 90 days per year. But the list of items that have been done is over 40,” says Konkel.
According to Konkel, updating the plan presents an important opportunity to improve collaboration amongst service providers and set larger, simplified goals for the Consortium.
“We want this to be an adaptable plan that we’re going to be able to change as circumstances change, and we really want it to be something that is data-driven, as well.”
$150,000 in funding was allocated in last year’s City budget to pay for the updates. Securing money to implement the recommended changes, though, remains a primary challenge—one that the Consortium hopes a consultant can help Madison to navigate.
“We’ve made so many advances within the homeless services system during Covid. We don’t want to move backwards, but we also don’t know where the money is going to come from. It really is a big puzzle for us to try to figure out how we’re going to continue these services that are more humane, more trauma-informed, and more focused on meeting the needs of folks who are experiencing homelessness,” Konkel explains.
Proposals are due on September 15, 2022 at noon.
“I do think this is a really great opportunity for the community, and I hope that people take it seriously. It’s hard to get excited about a plan. A lot of plans get sat on a shelf, and I think our goal here is to make sure that it doesn’t get put on a shelf,” says Konkel.
Photo courtesy of Ponderosa Templeton, CC BY-SA 4.0.