Arree Macon has experienced homelessness multiple times throughout his life.
His most recent experience was in Madison when he was 17 years old. He says he spent the entire summer of that year living on someone’s porch while he searched for another place to live.
“It makes you feel sometimes alone and scared and stressed out because you don’t know what’s happening next” Macon says. “Everything is just in the air.”
Macon spoke at today’s Homelessness Awareness Month event as a member of the Dane County Youth Action Board, which is a group committed to ending youth homelessness.
State senator Melissa Agard and Madison Deputy Mayor Linda Vakunta were among other speakers at the event.
They highlighted what they say is a “homeless crisis” in Dane County and Wisconsin overall. Speakers also welcomed organizations to collaborate on possible solutions.
Last year, Governor Tony Evers declared November 13th through the 21st as Homelessness Awareness Week, which has now transformed into a month-long observance.
Vanessa McDowell is the CEO of YWCA Madison. As an attendee of today’s event, she says she was excited to connect with other organizations who focus on homelessness issues.
Though, she says she has doubts about what work will actually be done to help people experiencing homelessness.
“I’m always more like I’m waiting and seeing,” McDowell says. “What’s going to happen after we have left here? What’s going to happen? What’s the work to be done?”
McDowell says she and members of the YWCA’s housing team attended today’s event to share their ideas and thoughts on how housing issues can be addressed.
McDowell says she wanted to make sure intersectionality, and the idea that everyone is impacted by issues differently, was a part of today’s discussion.
“Yes, we have a housing crisis in Madison,” McDowell says, “but how it is disproportionately impacting people of color as well, and I think that’s an element that I want to bring in the storyline too.”
According to a report this year from the Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County, Black folks account for 40 percent of all people identified as experiencing homelessness. Yet, Black people account for 5.5 percent of Dane County’s total population, as of the start of this year.
Twenty-year-old Myanna Holmes also attended today’s event as someone who has been homeless since she was 16 years old. And as a member of Project 16:49, a non-profit organization that serves homeless youth in Rock County.
Holmes says she is particularly hopeful about Wisconsin’s efforts to help young people who are experiencing homelessness.
“I’m really excited that the word is getting out about youth homelessness and all the struggles that we’ve been going through and that the community is realizing how big of a struggle that it is,” Holmes says. “I’m very excited that it’s getting resolved and we’re not being invisible anymore.”
Macon, from the Youth Action Board, says after today’s event, he hopes people can unite to help people experiencing homelessness across the city of Madison.
“We as a community should be working together to eliminate gaps or barriers for people to be successful.”
Image courtesy: Connor Betts / UNSPLASH