Madison and Dane County may soon collaborate to put personal storage lockers for the homeless in downtown public parking garages.
Alderman Ledell Zellers and other City Council members are introducing a resolution Tuesday calling for collaboration with the county to place storage lockers in downtown parking garages or other “safe and reasonable locations.”
The county is already weighing a proposal from Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner to put storage lockers in the county garage and calling upon the city to designate space for more lockers in its various downtown garages. The latest version of Wegleitner’s resolution calls for lockers big enough to store sleeping gear and a backpack to be secured with a combination lock with a registration system.
The initiatives come after the city closed a primitive storage area for belongings of the homeless that was open for just three months behind the Madison Municipal Building and taken down in July due to alleged illicit activity and health concerns. Since then, the homeless have had no place downtown to store belongings, with the closest location the supervised storage the city pays for at the Social Justice Center.
Zellers’ resolution calls for the city to spend as much as $10,000 for lockers. She said she doesn’t want to use actual parking spaces for lockers and that it would be best to spread them among various garages. She said the lockers could be available by year’s end.
The lockers are “for the good of the people who don’t have a home as well as for the appearance of downtown,” Zellers said. She doesn’t expect behavior to be a problem because people would have individual lockers rather than a common space, which led to problems this summer.
Wegleitner could not be reached for comment Monday.
Former Alderman Brenda Konkel, an advocate for the homeless, called the proposed lockers “a great idea” and the best opportunity to provide needed storage soon at minimal cost.
The lockers “can make a huge difference for people” who otherwise must carry their belongings to go to work, apply for jobs or access health care or other services, she said.
Mayor Paul Soglin is waiting to see the outcome of the proposed collaboration but believes the cost of the space is a consideration, Deputy Mayor Enis Ragland said.
Josh Wescott, chief of staff for County Executive Joe Parisi, said Wegleitner’s proposal has capital and operating costs and raised concerns from employees who park in the county garage at all hours. Parisi will review details if the resolution passes but believes storage needs can be best met once a new day resource center is open, Wescott said. The county is considering a day center.