Skip to comments.2009 - Use of Capitol building as homeless shelter raises concerns (Wisconsin unions kick them out?)
Posted on 02/20/2011 7:34:09 PM PST by Libloather
Use of Capitol building as homeless shelter raises concerns
By Stacy Forster of the Journal Sentinel
May 29, 2009
Madison - State Capitol police respond to dozens of incidents each month involving homeless people who spend their days in the landmark building.
Capitol police say the building is secure and the incidents involving the homeless aren't that different from those involving the thousands of people who work in and visit the building each day. But some lawmakers believe the state should do a better job of helping those who seek shelter in the Capitol, rather than just housing them during the day and then shooing them out when the building closes.
In recent years, the marble landmark has become a shelter of sorts from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. because it's a warm, dry place for the homeless to rest and socialize. Activity is the greatest in the winter months, when more people find respite there.
Rep. Richard Spanbauer (R-Oshkosh), a first-term lawmaker who was surprised to see how the homeless use the building, said he doesn't believe it's the Capitol police's job to monitor them.
"Help the homeless, but let's also protect the safety and welfare of those who do business in the Capitol," Spanbauer said, adding he fears that unless things change, "something's bound to happen."
'A very safe place'
But Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs said the department's resources aren't strained by the activity and that people should feel it's a secure place to work or visit.
"It's a very safe place," Tubbs said. "If it was not, we'd be doing a different type of police techniques."
Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), who has sponsored legislation intended to aid the homeless in the Capitol, said federal economic stimulus dollars for homelessness are likely to help ease some problems.
According to police reports from January - when the coldest weather drives more people indoors - Capitol police logged 56 incidents involving the homeless in and around the Capitol; there were about 200 total reports that month.
While many incidents involved simply checking on the welfare of those sleeping on heating grates outside the building, police also dealt with alcohol abuse; arguments; defecation and urination; and arrests of people on outstanding warrants.
Homeless people typically find shelter in public spaces such as libraries and courthouses, and such incidents aren't unusual when it comes to places where homeless people gather, said Dennis Culhane, a professor for the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy & Practice and an expert on homelessness.
"These are the things that happen when you have all these desperate people in desperate circumstances, forced to live their life in public when most people who emit those behaviors do it in private," Culhane said, adding that 24-hour facilities would better serve homeless people than overnight shelters.
How about now? Are you the one passing out doughnuts to your overnight guests?
Charles Tubbs Jr., 22, is accused of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and possession of a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun.
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