A temporary daytime warming shelter closed Sunday after serving Madison’s homeless community and providing them with resources since November as advocates are beginning to plan for a new permanent resource center to be built in the city.
The shelter, which was located at 827 E. Washington Avenue, provided a variety of information and resources for the homeless population. The shelter assisted with obtaining identification cards for the homeless and contained a computer room and daily meals, according to Brenda Konkel, an advocate for the homeless community.
People could get involved in creative writing and poetry workshops, Dane County Board Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, District 2, said. She said they could also use the quiet room available for meditation or prayer.
Other help was offered through outside agencies volunteering to provide services and meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and could be held at the facility, Konkel said.
“It was a place for stability and community, to get some food and provide access to information, support and referrals,” Wegleitner said.
The shelter also involved the homeless people in the operation of the facility by providing feedback on what resources were needed, Konkel said.
The shelter staffed two full time employees and one part-time employee and volunteers were very important to the shelter, Wegleitner said. The shelter frequently assisted as many as 160 people a day, she said.
However, the facility lacked necessary amenities such as laundry and showers, which are a priority for the planned permanent resource center, Wegleitner said.
“The overall net positive effect of the shelter was amazing,” Wegleitner said.
Dane County has budgeted $600,000 for a permanent day resource center to be created in the future, Wegleitner said.
The county hopes to have the new facility available for access by November 1 of this year, but an adequate building has yet to be found, she said.
The Dane County’s Homeless Issues Committee, in conjunction with county human services staff, presented a report containing ideal recommendations to the county board, she said. The report is intended to guide the selection of a site.
The ideal location would be downtown, Wegleitner said, in order to be accessible to people who depend on public transportation.
The county is not very rigid with the price of the shelter, Wegleitner said. Dane County is focused on finding an adequate location and understands the search may need to be broadened, she said.
Wegleitner also said she hopes the community does not view the permanent day center as a potential blight to the neighborhood, but rather a place to connect with others of a different socioeconomic background and a place to give back and serve the community.
Until a permanent location is found, other resources do exist for those in need. Bethel Lutheran Church is open Tuesday through Thursday and has a computer lab, book club and a frequent medical personnel presence, Wegleitner said.
Other resources include the public library, which is currently under construction, Porchlight’s Hospitality House and other area food pantries, Konkel said. She said the community will miss the temporary shelter.
“It is a big loss to the community while we are waiting for a new permanent facility to be opened,” Konkel said. “So many good things were accomplished at the temporary shelter.”