The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors has declared a “right to shelter” for all Milwaukee residents — but it’s stopped short of fully funding it.
On Nov. 5, the county board unanimously approved a resolution from Supervisor Ryan Clancy that says “any resident experiencing chronic homelessness and without access to safe housing will have accessible shelter.”
However, on Monday, Nov. 9, the board rejected three of four budget amendments aimed at putting the resolution into effect.
The amendments the board shot down would have:
- Provided flexible funds for the county’s Housing Division to help residents in immediate danger of homelessness find or stay in shelter or housing.
- Created an additional position to serve as an advocate for people with obstacles to housing who seek rental accommodations.
- Provided funds to find ways for existing county-owned buildings to provide services to people experiencing homelessness.
A fourth amendment, passed by the board, calls for analyzing the possibility of a “right to counsel” pilot program for individuals and families experiencing evictions and foreclosures.
Supervisor Jason Haas, the chairman of the county board’s finance committee, said his panel recommended rejecting the three amendments because they would have taken money away from the sheriff’s office overtime budget.
“That money is used for things like correctional officers, who are needed and hard to retain,” Haas said. “If staff in that department work overtime, even if it is not in the budget, the county still has to pay them.”
In a 14-4 vote last month, the board adopted a $1.18 billion budget, with Supervisors Clancy, Patti Logsdon, Anthony Staskunas and John F. Weishan Jr. voting in opposition.
Clancy said he will be taking more steps to support the fight against homelessness.
“What we have come to understand from the community is often emergencies like homelessness are better solved by folks trained to provide resources and build up trust than by the dispatch of an armed county sheriff,” Clancy wrote in an article about the resolution in the Bay View Compass.
Clancy said he proposed the “right to shelter” resolution after seeing the work of county employees who do outreach to homeless people and realizing they needed more help.
“Milwaukee County’s commitment to ending homelessness is something we can all be proud of, but we must also reaffirm this commitment with additional resources when necessary,” said Clancy. “The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated housing insecurity, and we have the responsibility to support our neighbors in need.”
But more needs to be done, advocates say.
“Shelter and housing is a basic human right,” a statement from the Outreach Community Health Centers reads. “What is lacking is the funding and physical housing location resources throughout Milwaukee County.”
Sister MacCanon Brown of the MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary said although she is hopeful the resolution will help, she does not see change coming soon.
“It’s a good step, but I don’t think we’ll see the effects of for a long time,” Brown said. “The issue is huge, and it’s growing every month.”