The Cicero Institute’s Proposed Milwaukee Legislation Could Send Homeless Shelters into Bankruptcy

homeless Shelters closed and bankrupt

“Their proposal includes a $500 fine for being homeless and also the withholding of funding for shelters for up to six months from our state’s Department of Administration, which could literally bankrupt most of the shelters.”

– Sherrie Tussler, CEO of Hunger Task Force, explaining the malicious underpinnings of Cicero Institute’s latest attempt to mass criminalize homelessness.

It is freezing in Milwaukee, and an aggressive conservative think tank known as the Cicero Institute has some equally cold new legislation to match on the horizon.

Previously, we sat down with the CEO of Hunger Task Force, Sherrie Tussler, to discuss the possible ramifications of Assembly Bill 689 and Senate Bill 669. If passed, these two Wisconsin-based proposals would force members of Milwaukee’s homeless population into state-sanctioned internment camps, where they would have to fend for themselves in a formidable landscape comprised of tiny shacks the size of prison cells that lack bathrooms and access to basic utilities.

This is the future of homelessness in the eyes of the Cicero Institute and its many political allies. It is a grim prospective future indeed. Perhaps the most haunting aspect of this strategy is not that it could realistically exist right now but that it could even replace the few homeless services we have available by sending them into bankruptcy.

According to Sherrie, the area’s handful of available homeless shelters would likely be the first to go.

Full Shelters Meet Frigid Temperatures. This is Winter in Wisconsin.

It was an icy Saturday in Milwaukee County when authorities found him – a 51-year-old homeless man who froze to death in his car along 87th Street near Capitol Drive. His fate, while tragic, is also commonplace. A 28-year-old Milwaukee man was found frozen in his vehicle that Friday. Friends and family didn’t even know he was homeless or that he had fallen upon hard times.

For unhoused people, Milwaukee winters pose the very real threat of death by freezing via heart attacks or hypothermia. And there is another problem afoot: the issue of not having any shelter space.

“You’ve got people who want to help,” said Sherrie, shrugging. “But they don’t know how to help. All of our shelters are full, and they’re always full. We weren’t a city that built a lot of beds at the beginning. We do have a rescue mission that always says that it has space, but lots of people talk about the overreaching of religion and the creepy factor of having someone else telling you who your God is before you can get in.”

Sherrie lowered her voice before revealing this next part, “I don’t understand it, but something happens with the showers in the men’s dormitories, and whatever happens in there makes people not ever wanna go back.”

From forced religious coercion to violence inside the shower stalls, it’s clear to see the Milwaukee region of the United States has some pretty serious issues regarding its homeless shelters. However, the most glaring issue of all is scarcity.

“Our shelters did open in Milwaukee for the first winter in quite a few years. We’ve opened our temporary overnight shelters, and there are about half a dozen different choices, faith-based facilities, and some non-profit organizations. Normally, we wait until it’s zero degrees to do that. But they opened them early this year, and they’re all full,” she said. “According to our street outreach team, there are at least 150 people that they’re encountering when they’re doing second shift outreach, and there are just not enough facilities, not enough beds.”

A Feeble Homeless Shelter System Like the One Described Above Probably Couldn’t Withstand the Withholding of Government Funds. But That’s Exactly What the Cicero Institute is Proposing.

Just a few months ago, the conservative lobby operating under the moniker Cicero Institute introduced two bills designed to criminalize homelessness. Assembly Bill 689 and Senate Bill 669 contain dubious plans to push the most vulnerable homeless people out of public sight and into modern-day internment camps.

Not only will this move be detrimental to the entire homeless community and society as a whole, but it is also likely to bankrupt the current homeless shelter system, which is already overburdened.

“We have 72 counties, and so there would be a minimum of 72 internment camps created,” Sherrie explained. “And then they claim people could get access to the services that they need at this camp, which is a head-scratcher for me since the main service they need is housing. Their proposal includes a $500 fine for being homeless and also the withholding of funding for shelters for up to six months from our state’s Department of Administration, which could literally bankrupt most of the shelters.”

“So now we’re waiting for the other side of it, which is the assembly bill to come up,” she continued. “Experts anticipate that may happen right now, in January. Assuming that it passed out of the committee as well, it would go to our governor’s office. He is a Democrat, and we believe that he would veto this, but even if he does, it’s creating this climate of fear and hate that’s unwarranted. And especially when it’s coming from a group that’s not even from Wisconsin!”

“It’s troubling to think that this corrupt organization with an opinion inconsistent with community values could just come in and try to pass a law,” she said.

The Cicero Institute Wants to Bankrupt Homeless Shelters and Replace them with Internment Camps. This is Not a New Approach to Homelessness. It’s a Medieval Approach to Homelessness. Talk To Your Legislators Today.

The Cicero Institute claims to offer a new and novel approach to homelessness but tread carefully. We have seen architecture like this before:

  • The prison-sized cell-like sheds
  • The lack of basic utilities like electricity and private bathrooms
  • The utter stripping of humanity from human beings

This is not a new approach but a primitive one. 

Implementing this strategy nationwide (which, let’s face it, is the actual intention behind the template legislation) will cost us more than our shelter systems. It will cost us our humanity.

Talk to your legislators today about banning legislation that seeks to oppress this already marginalized community.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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