A daytime warming center opened Monday in an effort to keep the homeless warm during the winter and offer support.
The center will remain open until the end of March 2013 from about 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., according to Steve Schooler, executive director of Porchlight Inc., a homeless shelter located in downtown Madison. He said Porchlight is running the center, which is located at the former Lussier Teen Center at 827 E. Washington Ave., for Dane County.
The center will have social workers on staff from Porchlight to help the homeless find employment or housing and will provide computers for them to fill out job and housing applications, Schooler said.
Dane County Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, District 2, said people used to be able to stay warm in the basement of the Capitol or Central Library last winter but said Gov. Scott Walker closed off the basement of the Capitol, and the library is undergoing renovations.
“Even though those spaces used to be available, they’re not really what we need in terms of allowing folks access to services,” Wegleitner said. “This daytime shelter is a place to be warm, have a cup of coffee and to start to work with people.”
Dane County Supervisor Leland Pan, District 5, said even though the center is not open at night, it will allow people to get rest who work third shifts and can not normally sleep in the night-time shelters.
Pan said the center will also have lockers, which is very useful to people who go to job interviews so that they do not need to bring all their belongings with them to the interview.
He said although it lacks showers, it is essential to have a place like this for the homeless to go during the winter.
“I think it’s great that we have a temporary center,” Pan said. “I think it will save lives. I’m optimistic the temporary shelter this year will serve its purpose.”
Mayor Paul Soglin said the city has supported this warming center and provided a similar shelter last winter.
Another benefit to the center, Wegleitner said, is its location. She said it is important the center is centrally located so people can get to various appointments and other services they depend on by bus. She added transportation is a large barrier for the homeless.
Wegleitner said she is hopeful members of Occupy Madison will utilize the daytime warming center and added the county is trying to provide transportation from the current encampment site to downtown. She said about 40 people were there Monday morning, and they felt their activism in the summer paid off.
Residents of the neighborhood across from the site of the center expressed concern because they felt the homeless shelter last winter was not run properly, Wegleitner said. She said this year, there are more dedicated resources and staff at the center.
Pan said the warming center is located near the Rainbow Project, a facility that helps children who have suffered from trauma that expressed concerns about being so close to the warming center because the homeless have reputations of drug abuse and mental illness. Pan added the Dane County Board of Supervisors has worked to ensure the two populations do not have contact.
$600,000 was set aside in the Dane County capital budget to buy a property for a permanent day resource center, Wegleitner said. She said having this permanent center would eliminate last-minute planning for a winter homeless facility next year and would operate year-round and include various programs and services.