CHAPTER I: LOCAL, STATE RESOURCES FALL FAR SHORT

They sleep in beaten vehicles and tents in the woods. Doubled up with family or friends in worn apartments and ratty motel rooms. Huddled under bridges and in crowded shelters. The stereotype is a weathered denizen of Capitol Square. In reality, perhaps half are children, most out of sight. Our "Homeless in Madison | A City Challenged" project aims to shine a light on one of the city's most pressing troubles.

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

Seemingly intractable, homelessness is among the biggest problems facing the Madison area. For nine months, the Wisconsin State Journal has been investigating its root causes, obstacles to solutions and the insidious effects on the people it swallows up.

We tell this complex and often heartbreaking story in four chapters. Tap on any chapter heading to jump to that section.

  • Chapter I: Homelessness is rising in the face of limited state support, and local efforts have fallen short.
  • Chapter II: The growing numbers of homeless -- most of them families and children -- strain social and public safety services and challenge the area's schools.
  • Chapter III: The local patchwork of service providers has gaps, struggles to meet the need and offers a hodgepodge of shelters that fall short of modern standards of humane shelter.
  • Chapter IV: There are many models for a way forward on homelessness. Which is best for Madison, and who will lead the way?

SHARE THIS PROJECT

READ THE E-EDITION: Click on this link and then click on "Editions" for the full series

HOW TO HELP, HOW TO GET IT

If you are homeless or near-homeless and need help: For emergency shelter, call the toll-free Dane County Housing Crisis Line at 855-510-2323. For other housing questions or general assistance, call the United Way of Dane County helpline at 2-1-1.

If you would like to help the homeless: The United Way's 2-1-1 helpline also is the place to call to give help. Or go to volunteeryourtime.org.

CHAPTER II: CHILDREN AND TEENS FACE DIRE CONSEQUENCES

Youth can be assaulted, abuse substances, develop mental health problems, and engage in "survival sex," trading their bodies for food, clothing, drugs, money or a place to stay. 

CHAPTER III: OVERWHELMED AND UNDER-RESOURCED

CHAPTER IV: SEEKING WAYS FORWARD

Nine months of reporting for this project included conversations with more than 100 service providers, advocates, experts, officials and homeless people. Those efforts shed light on myriad problems related to homelessness — and many suggestions and models for possible solutions. Here are some of them, in the most critical areas affecting homelessness in Madison.

Homelessness is a complex problem, with no one-size-fits-all solution. Yet for the vast majority of people who end up on the streets, homelessness will be a temporary episode in their lives. We asked three recently homeless people to share the critical piece of help that got them into housing.

During the course of this nine-month reporting project, many homeless people allowed the State Journal to follow them as they attempted to get off the streets. Their willingness to share intimate personal details during a vulnerable and often chaotic time in their lives offered invaluable insight. Today, we check back in with some of them for a final update.

FACES OF HOMELESSNESS

The Wisconsin State Journal has been following a diverse group of homeless individuals, some since January. Over the course of these special reports, readers will learn about their challenges and watch as their lives unfold. Here is an introduction to some of them. Tap on a picture to learn more.

VIDEOS FROM THIS SERIES

FROM OUR OPINION PAGES: A CITY CHALLENGED

ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS

Wisconsin State Journal reporters Dean Mosiman and Doug Erickson and photojournalists Steve Apps, John Hart, Amber Arnold and M.P. King have spent months investigating and chronicling the issue of homelessness in Madison.

Dean Mosiman

Dean Mosiman has covered city government for the newspaper since 1997. A native of Minneapolis, he previously worked for newspapers in California, New York and Washington state. Contact him at 608-252-6141 or dmosiman@madison.com

Doug Erickson

Doug Erickson covers K-12 education and religion and has worked at the newspaper since 1999. The South Dakota transplant previously worked for The (Appleton) Post-Crescent, as well as newspapers in Georgia and Minnesota. Contact him at 608-252-6149 or derickson@madison.com.

Steve Apps

Steve Apps started at the newspaper as a staff photographer in 1997, and became chief photographer in 2010. A Madison native, he previously worked for newspapers in Florida, Wausau and Appleton. Contact him at 608-252-6151 or sapps@madison.com

John Hart

John Hart, a Wisconsin native, joined the newspaper photo staff in 2010 after having worked previously at papers in Watertown and Wisconsin Rapids. Contact him at 608-252-6158 or jhart@madison.com.

Amber Arnold

Amber Arnold has been a staff photographer for the newspaper since 2012. She previously worked for newspapers in Manitowoc and Missouri. Contact her at 608-252-6154 or aarnold@madison.com.

M.P. King

M.P. King has covered general news, features and Wisconsin Badgers sports as a staff photojournalist since 2010. He previously worked at newspapers in Appleton and Green Bay. Contact him at 608-252-6163 or mking@madison.com.