Jeanne Hanson wants to help honeybees without scaring anybody.
For years now, bees have been struggling to survive an onslaught from mites and various diseases. But, because they're prolific pollinators, bees are critical for healthy produce and flowers.
"I wouldn't be surprised if there's a hundred beehives in Madison," says Hanson, who is involved with the Dane County Beekeepers Association and keeps bees herself at her east-side home. "There are not many wild hives. There aren't good places for them. There's a hollow tree every once in a while, but as soon as a tree dies, people cut it down. If they nest in a wall, they're instantly removed."
"Honeybees very much need beekeepers keeping hives to live," she adds.
Which is why Hanson hopes a new ordinance introduced Tuesday by Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway passes the Common Council. The ordinance would allow residents who get a $10 permit to keep up to six hives, with certain restrictions.
Beekeeping isn't currently illegal, but the city has no formal rules regulating it. The ordinance creates these rules, forbidding hives bigger than 10 cubic feet. They also cannot be closer than 15 feet to a property line, 40 feet to a sidewalk or principal building on an abutting lot. If the hive is within 25 feet of the property line, there must be a "flyway" barrier at least six feet high and 20 feet long, requiring the bees to fly up instead of directly into a neighbor's yard. There also must be a constant supply of water.
Rhodes-Conway is sponsoring the ordinance in part to acknowledge the growing local food movement in Madison. "Where you've got a backyard garden or a flower bed, somebody's got to pollinate," she says.
Since Hanson has been keeping bees, her neighbor's plum tree has started to bear fruit. Unlike other pollinators, honeybees cover vast amounts of land, traveling up to two miles to find pollen, Hanson says.
Hanson knows that some people are afraid of bees because of the potential to get stung. But she says this has mostly been exaggerated, and less than 1% of the population has an allergy. "If you're not aggravating the bee or stepping on it, you won't get stung," she says. "The people who get stung are beekeepers, because we open up the hives."
"We try to be responsible neighbors," Hanson adds, saying the proposed ordinance "protects the neighborhood from someone who wants to put in 20 hives. It also protects our one little beehive from some neighbor who is afraid of our little bees."
In August, Madison.gov reported on a potential crisis: the loss of two places for the homeless to go during the day in winter.
In late September, Downtown Madison Inc. convened representatives from a number of downtown churches and Porchlight, an organization that assists homeless residents, to talk about possible solutions. "What are we going to do?" asks DMI president Susan Schmitz. "We can't leave them outside freezing."
While no solution has been reached yet, some possibilities are in the works, says Steven Schooler, executive director of Porchlight. "I have made a request to the state Department of Administration to open up the basement," he says. "We haven't heard back yet."
Porchlight is looking for whatever community space can be made available during the day, "particularly in the downtown area and particularly on weekends."
"I roughly estimate 100 people looking for space at any given time during the day," he says. "The strategy is to try to break them into smaller groups. That does include increasing capacity at some of the places we operate and at churches."
Anyone with space available can call Porchlight at 608-257-2534.
Donna Asif knows that homeless people have an especially tough time keeping clean.
"Imagine yourself without those opportunities. It's part of your self-image, self-love," says Asif, an advocate for homeless individuals. Homeless people who are able to bathe and wash their clothes regularly "are more likely to seek company. There's also the health component, those nasty rashes and the smells that make you feel ashamed. You can go now for job interviews and maybe reconnect with people who knew you before you were unwashed."
The emergency shelter run by Porchlight at the Grace Episcopal Church has showers, but they're not private. And the laundry machines there are in constant demand.
In 2007, Asif started a shower program at First United Methodist Church downtown. Two days a week, homeless people can use one of two private bathrooms at the church, with access to razors, nail clippers, shampoo, combs and clean underwear and socks. She recently started "Project Bubbles" to help the homeless get their laundry done.
The program provides bus fare to and from Laundry Land, 1131 N. Sherman Ave., where the staff will help homeless people do their laundry. Detergent, drier sheets and coins for the machines are included.
"We're still in the pilot stage, but it's really running well," Asif says. "People can do their wash even once a week. But the need is greater and the word isn't getting out."
Coupons for the program can be picked up at First United Methodist's food pantry or during the shower hours, from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays and Fridays.