A daytime homeless shelter initially proposed to open near Dane County Regional Airport is now also being considered for a location closer to downtown, according to members of the county’s Board of Supervisors. 

One month ago, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi detailed plans for the county to collaborate with Porchlight, Inc., a non-profit organization aimed at decreasing the homeless population, on creating a temporary shelter on Wright Street near Madison Area Technical College on the city’s east side. 

However, Sup. Dianne Hesselbein, District 9, and Sup. Heidi Wegleitner, District 2, acknowledged the county is also considering a location on the 800 block of East Washington Avenue. 

The new location was first announced at a neighborhood meeting about the Wright Street shelter by Sup. Paul Rusk, District 12, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. 

Nevertheless, Hesselbein, who also sits on Dane County Homeless Issues Committee, said Thursday the county is “pretty committed to the Wright Street location for this year.” She added the consideration for the East Washington Avenue site is only in “preliminary stages.” 

“It’s being looked at right now,” she said. 

The shelter is intended to operate as a temporary resource for homeless persons until long-term solutions can be put in place, such as the development of more affordable housing and greater access to mental and physical health care. 

The board approved unanimously in the allocation of $25,200 in county funds toward the shelter on Sept. 20, which would be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Nov. 1, 2012 and April 30, 2013. 

Wegleitner, also a member on the homeless committee, highlighted the benefits of the East Washington Avenue site in an email to The Badger Herald.
She said it sits within a close proximity to other programs like free meal sites, laundry programs and peer support groups. 

Wegleitner also mentioned the East Washington Avenue location is already properly zoned and would not call for a conditional use permit from the City of Madison Plan Commission, unlike the Wright Street site.
East Washington Avenue also provides a more accessible venue, Wegleitner said. 

The Wright Street location is approximately four and a half miles from the Capitol, prompting the county board to task Porchlight with providing transportation. 

“Homeless folks would not need to rely on public transportation or limited van shuttles to get to and from the East Washington [Avenue] location,” Wegleitner said in the email. 

However, Hesslbein said the county already owns the building in question on Wright Street, and it comes equipped with locker rooms and showering facilities. 

“That was really the beauty of it … it’s already been paid for,” she said. 

Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison, Inc., said she had no preference in the temporary facility’s location. 

She said opening a shelter in general is what is most important because of the colder weather setting in. 

“I don’t care where it is as long as there’s a place,” she said. 

In an interview with The Badger Herald last week, Parisi said the Wright Street shelter would hold up to 100 people, although the capacity may vary.