On probation and homeless

It was snowing last December when Kevin Brooks, then 39, entered a homeless shelter for the first time. It was just a few days after he took a plea agreement to be on probation for the next four years.

Unable to find housing near his family in Marinette County, Brooks was called back to Madison by the probation office. He expected to be confined inside a Dane County halfway house. His probation officer had different plans for him.

"The first words out of her mouth were, 'Did you bring winter clothes with you?' I was like, 'No, I'm going to a halfway house, what do I need winter clothes for?'" Brooks remembers. "She said, 'Oh no, I'm putting you in a homeless shelter.'"

"He seemed a little quiet, a little put off about how he got there," remembers David Gegenhuber, a homeless man who met Brooks his first day in the shelter, run in the basement of Grace Episcopal Church off the Capitol Square. "Myself and another one of our guys saw him in the morning having breakfast, and started talking to him, and tried to find out what he needed. We had already been in the system long enough to have some ideas of how to help him. He was a little bit confused."

Adds Gegenhuber: "What amazed all of us is that they dump people who are on probation in the shelter system."