[media-credit name=’JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′][/media-credit]With the end of winter still far away, one Madison-area homeless shelter is already experiencing a record number of temporary residents.
Hospitality House, a shelter for men located at 116 W. Washington Ave., has reportedly housed more than 150 people per night this year. It has historically housed around 120 people per night.
"There is no contingency plan for the rest of the winter — we're just going to gut it out," said Steven Schooler, executive director for Porchlight, Inc. "In terms of what we do next year, I do want to figure out what's causing these numbers."
Schooler said Porchlight, Inc., manages two shelters in the Madison area and receives most of its funding — about $135,000 a year — from Dane County. The shelters also receive about $75,000 from the state of Wisconsin and $80,000 from general contributions each year.
Other state and county aid for homeless people in Madison supports shelters run by the Salvation Army, Schooler said. Representatives from the Madison branch of the Salvation Army were not available for comment, but the organization has not released reports of heightened numbers in shelters.
Though Schooler said he does not know exactly why the shelter has been so full, he added numbers from Hospitality House do not indicate an increase in temporary residents from out-of-state. The slowing economy, loss of jobs and higher utility bills for the winter are all possible reasons the homeless population could fluctuate, Schooler said.
"I'm looking at … the date I have, and I honestly don't know what accounts for the increase," Schooler said. "I don't have an easy answer."
But Schooler also said not all people who frequent the crowded Hospitality House are without jobs. The shelter offers services to help homeless residents get on their feet, he added, and people at Hospitality House are encouraged to find work.
Perry Monroe Jr., a Madison resident who used to stay at Hospitality House and other area shelters, said it is difficult for someone who is homeless to save enough money from a paycheck to make both a security deposit and the first month's rent.
"Most [homeless people in shelters] are looking for a job, and a lot of them get a job, but … it's hard to come up with rent sometimes," Monroe said. "I'm always close to going back to the shelter. … It's kind of rough."
Madison shelters like Hospitality House are open from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. during the winter, and Monroe said colder months are harsh because there is no place to stay during the day.
But Monroe said shelters encourage employment because it is the best way to encourage homeless people to find their own homes.
"There is no reason for a person to be homeless, but you have people who feel like that's all they're gonna get," Monroe said.