During a virtual press conference Friday, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi introduced a new Hotels to Housing initiative to combat homelessness in Dane County.
The initiative will allocate $13 million towards providing housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness who are currently residing in hotels. Hotels to Housing is expected to support 230 individuals and 67 Dane County families by providing up to two years of rent and utilities in addition to housing search help and case management support.
Approximately 900 local residents are currently sheltered by the county in hotel rooms. This comes following an earlier program designed to lessen crowding in homeless shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hotels will remain available through federal COVID-19 relief funding through Aug. 31.
Funding for the Hotels to Housing initiative comes as a result of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan and will be featured prominently in Parisi’s 2022 budget proposal. The $13 million budget will be introduced throughout the next two years.
Parisi plans to allot $2.6 million this year and the remaining $10.4 million into the 2022 and 2023 budget.
Dane County Board Chair Analiese Eicher emphasized that the increase in federal funding allows local officials to more effectively address the homeless crisis in Dane County and create permanent change in housing opportunities.
“The federal funding provided to Dane County as a result of the pandemic presents us with a unique opportunity to help unhoused families and individuals with the stability they need to thrive in our community,” Eicher told The Cap Times.
Parisi voiced that he feels that Dane County has shown considerable dedication to providing assistance to the homeless community throughout the pandemic. He views the new initiative as the next step in ensuring long lasting relief for community members.
“Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dane County has been committed to helping our most vulnerable residents receive the support and shelter they need to stay safe and avoid catching or spreading this highly contagious disease,” Parisi said in a press release. “This multimillion-dollar investment over the next two years will aid in community recovery and ease the transition out of hotel shelter and into housing for those experiencing homelessness.”
Casey Becker, leader of the Division of Housing Access and Affordability, stressed that the program devotes money to providing permanent housing solutions rather than temporary shelters.
“Making sure that in addition to having right sized shelter facilities we also have a right sized amount of housing opportunity as well is really important in terms of ending homelessness,” said Becker in an interview with The Cap Times
With the funding of the hotels ending near the end of summer, Eicher stressed the importance of the implementation of the Hotels to Housing initiative as soon as possible.
“With hotel sheltering ending in August, time is of the essence,” said Eicher. “We are fortunate to have strong partners to assist the county deliver this potentially life-changing initiative for our neighbors in need.”
Officials are seeking landlords willing to take part in the program, and Parisi encouraged this opportunity as a low risk way to give back to the community.
“It’s not like it’s a super risk for a landlord. These are going to be very motivated people with some resources and assistance behind them, and it’s a really great opportunity to make a difference in our community and give someone a fresh start in life,” Parisi stated.