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Homeless shelters fill up as thousands book Madison hotel rooms

MADISON (WKOW) — The CrossFit Games are expected to bring thousands to Madison, booking many hotels solid. It’s good news for the economy but families who rely on those rooms to avoid sleeping on the streets are left to find other options.

Robert Miller is one of the hundreds who vies for a spot in Madison’s few homeless shelters every night. With a six-month-old daughter, his options are slimmer but his need is greater.

“It’s like a lottery pick,” he said.

Miller said he was lucky his number came up Wednesday night. He could stay in the Salvation Army shelter. The only shelter in Madison that has rooms for families.

When that’s full, he said he has to find housing through friends, or walk from late-night business to business, all while trying to care for his daughter.

“Trying to make sure she eats and make sure she has everything she needs when we don’t even have anywhere to stop to change he diaper,” he said.

On a normal night, the Salvation Army fills up. Miller said he usually can get a room once or twice a week because the staff has to turn people away.

This week, with CrossFit crowds filling hotels, Miller said shelters fill up even more quickly.

“Hotel prices are super high,” he said. “They get more expensive because they know a lot of people are coming from out of town and have the money to spend to get the hotel rooms so when they have the funding they can’t pay those prices to get everyone in.”

Hotels that typically go for around $70 a night are going for double that with the increased demand. Jeanne Erickson, with Project Babies and the Today not Tomorrow Family Resource Center, said that means many of the families they help get into those hotel rooms are paying the price.

“It’s unavoidable and for some people, it catches them off guard and other people are more prepared for it,” she said.

Erickson said it doesn’t just happen during events like the CrossFit Games, major Badger football games and graduation can create a price surge leaving families in the same situation.

She said her organization can’t always help them find shelter for the night. In those cases, they make sure anyone who asks for her help stay safe.

“We make sure that we know where they are if they’re not in a housed situation, we ask, ‘Where can we find them?'” Erickson said. “‘Where can people check up on them and do whatever support we can?'”

Miller said that kind of support is a small courtesy for families just looking for a safe place to sleep.

“It gets frustrating after awhile,” he said.

Erickson acknowledges events like the CrossFit Games are good for the city. She’s working with city officials to see if there’s a solution to find more temporary housing.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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