Some of Madison’s homeless have a permanent place to stay now that a Madison non-profit opened up single room occupancy housing on the city’s East Side.
The resource development director at Porchlight Inc., Beatrice Hadidian, said there are 14 Safe Haven units in the facility, which share a kitchen and bathroom space similar to a dorm. The units include a sink, mirror, storage space, bed and closet, she said.
Attached to the 14 units are 34 efficiencies, Hadidian said. They are spacious and include a kitchen area, big bathroom, living space and a bedroom, she said.
“It’s such a great transition, especially at Safe Haven,” Hadidian said. “It’s a fact that a lot of the individuals have histories of abuse and trauma. It’s a great opportunity to offer them their own space in the world where they can close their own door at night, have their own space and be alone sometimes.”
Hadidian said the project cost nearly $4 million, most of which came from donors. She said less than $1 million came from government grants.
She said many organizations like the University of Wisconsin’s Hillel for Hunger helped make the new residents feel comfortable by donating basic household items. She said students who want to donate or volunteer with Porchlight can go to the non-profit’s website.
The city recently passed a study of single room occupancy housing and will hopefully build between 40 and 50 single room occupancies within the next few years, Hadidian said.
“This is the long term, affordable housing that homeless people need in Madison,” Hadidian said. “It’s exactly this type of housing that provides a long term solution for affordable housing that is not offered other places in the city.”
It is difficult for many people making minimum wage or on disability to find a place to stay, she said. Homes with one bedroom, along with utility costs, usually total between $500 and $700 a month, an amount most of them cannot afford, Hadidian said.
Ald. Larry Palm, District 15, said finding a place to live for all members of Madison’s community is important.
“If single room occupancies are a way to make that happen, we need to continue to develop and build them,” Palm said. “They should be throughout the city so people don’t have to be displaced.”
He said some people argue they should all be downtown. Not all homeless people are downtown, Palm said. He said there need to be options for people outside of downtown as well because people have support networks and jobs throughout the city.
Palm said the new housing project has been a two-year process. He appreciates how the residents in the community stepped up and were supportive.
He said it is important to work with homeless people who may not all want the same thing.
Palm asked, “How do we work with individuals who are homeless and have a different appreciation for what they want than what society expects?”
He said it will be an interesting policy discussion to figure out how to provide services to homeless people who may not want a roof over their head. He said many of these people do not want neighbors or to follow rules put in place by a bigger organization.
But single room occupancy is certainly a good thing, Palm said.
“We need more single room occupancy,” he said. “I’m glad the partnership between Madison and Porchlight made it happen.”