Restaurant, business owners concerned about proposed Madison homeless shelter – WKOW

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MADISON (WKOW) – A group of more than a dozen Asian restaurant owners are petitioning the City of Madison not to place a homeless shelter near their businesses.

Dane County and the City of Madison are hoping the proposed facility will be a permanent shelter to replace the temporary one off East Washington.

The restaurants are inside Global Market near East Towne Mall and the proposed shelter is a block away.

The Food Hall there is usually busy Saturdays, but restaurant owners are worried that may change soon.

“If people come in here and they’re sleeping in the booths, or going around bothering people, asking people for money, then people aren’t going to want to come here and eat or shop,” said Linda Launh, who owns Poké-Mì, one of the restaurants inside the food hall.

They’re all worried about a proposed homeless shelter opening up close to the store and sent a petition letter to city leaders asking them to reject the plan.

“We’re mostly women working in this area, and we’re kinda scared, really scared,” Amanda Chen, another business owner there, said.

“We’re the first ones here, and we’re the last ones out, and [my wife’s] safety is the most important thing,” Zang Vang, owner of Hmong Kitchen, said.

They all mentioned different experiences they’ve already had with people they say are homeless, and say they expect that to continue if the shelter opens up.

While not in her supervisory district, Dane County Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner is a strong proponent of the shelter.

“There is a tremendous need to have a safe place for people who need shelter and need to connect to services and meet their basic needs,” she said.

Wegleitner says she hears where business owners are coming from, but they may be misinformed.

“I think it’s a fear, but unfortunately not based in evidence, based in stereotypes,” she said, adding that she lives and works close to the temporary shelter and has never had any concerns.

Business owners say the city needs to find another location.

“We feel sympathetic to the homeless people as well, but we don’t want the shelter to be here, as it is not the right place for that,” Chen said.

Wegleitner says they’ve already looked elsewhere.

“Staff has been looking for 10 months. They’d identified a number of sites and this is the best option at this time and it’s absolutely critical that this project move forward,” she said.

Launh says it would be an easier pill for them to swallow if they could be involved in the process.

“Homeless people are human beings too, so we want treat everybody with as much respect as possible,” she said. “If we feel like it’s safe for us then why not, but the way it’s coming out right now, it’s a big concern.”

Both the city and the county are dedicating $3 million for the project.

The Madison Common Council will vote on the plan Tuesday.

The city lost its last potential location in October after it was bought before they could finalize plans.