Last week’s rejection of two proposed sites for a permanent day shelter for the homeless in Dane County was first and foremost appropriate on its merits. One isn’t big enough, the other is too expensive and both are too far from Downtown which is arguably the most important factor to consider. Dane County officials are right to wait for a more accessible and cost effective option.
And we understand the need for emergency shelter and the instinct to provide it. But the challenge of locating a shelter site also reminds us we must not lose sight of the ultimate goal for reducing the homeless population, and that’s permanent housing, or Housing First.
Housing First is the United Way of Dane County-led partnership with groups like the YWCA and the Road Home to get low or no income folks into housing as a foundation from which to start re-building their lives. An address can lead to a job and then to paying bills and moving up. Let’s be smart about shelters, but let’s always put Housing First.