Madison homeless shelter and housing project gets federal support

A $50 million Dane County Salvation Army project to build a new homeless shelter and affordable housing apartment complex is getting $4 million in support from Washington in the 2023 federal budget.

“This investment will expand access to affordable housing, safe shelter and critical support services for women and children experiencing homelessness in Dane County, and women and children fleeing domestic violence and dangerous situations,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said at a Monday morning press conference to highlight the project already underway six blocks from the state Capitol in Madison. “This investment will save lives.”

Artist renderings of the Salvation Army project under construction in Madison. (Wisconsin Examiner photo)

The Salvation Army project includes a $14 million, 44-unit apartment complex under construction and scheduled to open in February 2024, said Major Andrew Shiels, the capital-area coordinator for the Salvation Army. It also includes a $30 million shelter and community center for families and single women, replacing the existing shelter on the same site in what was once a parochial school and gym.

The project will consolidate a number of Salvation Army services directed toward people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity in one place, Shiels said, which “allows us to better serve the people that we’re serving because they don’t have to go to lots of different places.”

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said the projects “will have a powerful and tangible impact on the lives of many people who need shelter, and need a path back to stable housing.”

Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Town of Vermont) both included the Salvation Army project among their congressionally directed spending items in the 2023 appropriations legislation that President Joe Biden signed in December 2022.  

Community project funding requests were once called congressional earmarks: appropriations for specific local purposes included in congressional spending bills.

“I like to think of this funding as community inspired projects because we are providing support to meet a critical need within the community,” Baldwin said.

Congress banned earmarks for a decade starting in 2011, but they were revived in 2021 after Democrats gained control of both the U.S. House and the Senate. 

During the 10-year hiatus, directed appropriations were made by federal agencies themselves, although members of Congress still had an opportunity to be heard in the offices where those decisions were made.

“I have always said, on these community funded projects, we know our districts better than any bureaucrat sitting in a cubicle in Washington, D.C.,” Pocan said at Monday’s press conference. Name-checking the project’s chief fundraiser as well as Rhodes-Conway, he said federal officials “probably didn’t know” those individuals or know them personally.

“We did, and fortunately, because of those conversations with them, this today is a reality,” Pocan said.

When congressionally directed funding returned to the federal budget process, members of Congress were permitted to submit projects individually, following a prescribed form. The rule restricts requests to not-for-profit or government projects, including those undertaken by state or local agencies, and members must include a disclaimer of any personal financial benefit.

“Earmarks can help members feel like they have a stake in the legislative process, in a legislative world where power is really centralized with party leaders,” Molly E. Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, told the New York Times in April 2022. “They need some skin in the game, and earmarks — community project funding, whatever you want to call them — help members feel that efficacy and remind them why they came to Washington.”

The Dane County Salvation Army project was one of 66 Wisconsin projects, totaling $255 million in federal support, that Baldwin included in the 2023 appropriations bill signed in December 2022. Pocan obtained $16.2 million for a total of 15 projects in his South Central Wisconsin district, including the Salvation Army facility.



originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F03%2F20%2Fmadison-homeless-shelter-and-housing-project-gets-federal-support%2F by Erik Gunn

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