Shelter in the Eastside does a social disservice

OlympiaSeptember 4, 2013 

The number one killer in lower-income neighborhoods is not violence or drugs or even obesity — it is stress; and its impacts play out over a lifetime. And the effects of stress on learning are profound.

For the Eastside neighborhood, and the proposed low-barrier shelter across the street from its schools, it will not be the drug foot-traffic, or the stray needles, the theft, or the feeling unsafe walking to school that we already are anxious about. It will be the resulting stress on kids from one neighborhood dealing with all of it, that will lead to decay.

Nearly half of Madison kids are low-income and most have enough stress already. Twenty-five percent receive special education services and may be especially sensitive. When Madison is rebuilt, look what kids have to look forward to. The Eastside will act as a magnet for the low-barrier eligible from the entire region.

We already host several shelters in the neighborhood, some with many empty beds, and some that utilize effective rapid rehousing efforts for women and children. Complex problems require systems thinking for solutions that do not throw a community under the bus to serve a difficult niche of the homeless population. We need wise solutions, not hasty ones. Haste makes waste, and the kids that attend schools in the Eastside neighborhood don’t deserve to be wasted.

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