Not all supervisors favor the suggested Madison location

Dane County Sup. Mary Kolar of Madison formally introduced a resolution Thursday to purchase a site in the town of Madison with plans to convert it to a day shelter for the homeless.

Some county supervisors, though, have since expressed concerns that the proposed location may be too far from downtown Madison to adequately assist those it targets.

County Executive Joe Parisi first announced last Thursday that Porchlight, Inc., a local non-profit homeless outreach organization, had agreed to part ways with its facility at 1490 Martin St. for a price of $330,000. Porchlight's executive board must approve the deal before it becomes final.

“You county board supervisors have worked literally for years to ensure that we will have a day resource center,” Kolar said Thursday evening in Madison. “And today marks a day that we are well on our way to avoiding having another winter where we have people on the streets instead of getting the help that they need.”

Last year's county budget earmarked $1.2 million for homeless assistance efforts in Dane County, including $600,00 for the purchase and renovation of a site for a new day shelter. Pending approval of the purchase offer, construction and remodeling at the Martin Street address is expected to begin in August with an opening by November.

Parisi said a number of services will be offered at the new shelter once it's operational, such as employment and housing assistance, counseling, and substance abuse assistance. The upgraded facility will offer showers, laundry, and storage space, among other amenities.

The county will reportedly work with the non-profit Shine608 on a management plan for the day shelter and estimates the annual cost to operate the new day shelter for a full year at $300,000.

“The long-term solution to homelessness is to get people into housing and to get them jobs, income and other services to afford and retain that housing,” said county board Chair John Hendrick. “The day center is a great step in that direction.”

The City of Madison, along with United Way and Downtown Madison, Inc., have pledged $175,000 in collective support for the proposed project.

“With the help of the County Board, the City of Madison, and our community partners, we can offer critical assistance to find a job, permanent housing, mental health and substance abuse assistance, and more,” Parisi said last week.

But while the bulk of the county board realizes the need for a homeless day shelter is a pressing one, not all are convinced the Martin Street location is ideal.

Sup. Tim Kiefer of Waunakee said Monday the site is more than two miles from downtown Madison where most of the local homeless population congregates and “It's not clear how people will get back and forth to the new facility.”

“I think the worst case scenario is we spend a lot of taxpayer money for this day shelter and then homeless people feel they don't want to use it because the location is too isolated,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer isn't alone with those concerns. Sup. Heidi Wegleitner of Madison echoed the sentiment in a recent interview with The Capital Times.

“Another location considered previously was just off East Washington [Street in Madison] on an existing bus line,” Kiefer said. “And the existing overnight shelters are in and around downtown.”

Kiefer added that the “bottom line if we are actually going to help homeless people, it needs to be a positive environment they can access.”

Hometown News Group

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