A temporary homeless shelter that has been the topic of controversy within the city has closed its doors as the winter months come to an end.
The shelter, located on East Washington Avenue, opened in November to house Madison’s homeless community during the winter and was scheduled to close March 15. Located at the now-vacant Don Miller car dealership, the shelter is funded by Porchlight Inc., a community organization that provides shelter and other services to homeless people in the downtown area.
Porchlight leased the site from the city for the winter months to accommodate Madison’s homeless population, as other popularly visited sites, including the Capitol and Central Library, were not available to provide shelter this winter.
According to Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, the site will likely be torn down for construction of a mixed-use office and residential development in the coming months.
The commencement of the project will also require that the Occupy Madison people vacate the area, said Maniaci.
According to Maniaci, the presence of the Occupy Madison people has brought more homeless people to the shelter.
The shelter has proved to be a contentious subject in the neighborhood, receiving both praise and criticism from community members.
Maniaci said although the shelter was well-run, problems did arise with its presence. A noted problem has been the increase in police calls to the neighborhood, she added.
“I think what the neighborhood would like to see is that individuals feel safe and secure,” Maniaci said. “The neighborhood is happy for homeless individuals to move on,” said Maniaci.
She said the response to the closure of the shelter has largely been positive.
Madison Police Department Lt. Dave McCaw said in a previous interview with The Badger Herald that there has been an increase in complaints by area residents about possessions stolen out of cars, houses and porches.
There have also been complaints regarding noise, fights, public urination and trespassing, he added.
However, McCaw said that opinions on the homeless shelter are varied among the community. While some residents are upset that a homeless shelter was set up in their neighborhood, others are understanding of the situation, he added.
According to Maniaci, the shelter will never re-open in the Don Miller site.
Richard Freihoefer, an area representative for the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, said in an earlier interview that owners of businesses in the area have called the police because intoxicated citizens from the shelter come into their store, disrupting the business and customers.
Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association member Echnaton Vedder said moving homeless citizens to another location will not solve the larger problem of homelessness in Madison.
“It’s not just that we have a need for homeless shelters,” Vedder said. “I don’t like that it’s shutting down.”
Vedder said despite the need for the shelter, it had a negative impact for some in the neighborhood.
“I do hear some of the neighbors’ concerns about behavior and activities that some of the people who go to the facility are involved in,” Vedder said.
Maniaci said accommodations for the homeless community of Madison will continue to be an issue for the city.