After the city’s permanent daytime warming shelter for homeless residents closed nearly a year ago, residents left outside during winter’s coldest months have relied on the service of other organizations to stay warm.
Porchlight’s Executive Director Steve Schooler said they have been considering selling Hospitality House, a daytime resource center program, to Dane County for use as a daytime warming shelter for the homeless.
Ald. Joe Clausius, District 17, said the biggest problem the homeless are facing during this time period is trying to stay warm in subzero temperatures.
Clausius said he is supportive of opening a permanent daytime warming shelter in Madison. He said the county is placing a lot of importance on finding a location as close to downtown Madison as possible for the new shelter.
Clausius said the issue that has been the most prevalent with purchasing a new location for the shelter is the amount of money the county has allotted to purchase it, which is around $600,000. He said the city has taken nearly a year to find a shelter because there have not been any suitable sites within the established price.
The previous temporary warming shelter, which was visited by as many as 160 people a day, closed in March 2013. The shelter lacked necessary amenities such as laundry and showers, a priority for the planned permanent daytime shelter.
Clausius said churches and various service organizations have picked up the slack in providing resources for the homeless in the absence of a permanent daytime warming shelter.
“Obviously, we would hate to depend on that forever,” Clausius said.
Clausius said the city is not opposed to finding a new daytime warming shelter and would like to see a new shelter established within a year.
Mark Wilson, director of homeless support services for Bethel Lutheran Church, said the demand for daytime warming shelters in Madison has reached a level of extreme importance. Wilson said the Madison Public Library, Bethel Lutheran Church and Hospitality House are currently locations that allow homeless individuals to come and spend time indoors on a daily basis.
Wilson said Bethel has been providing these services for the last five years, averaging 100 people a day and about 2,000 to 2,200 people a month during the winter months.
Wilson said an important and necessary aspect of Bethel Lutheran Church’s program is that it is not just a place for the homeless to come and sit for eight or nine hours a day. He said the individuals that choose to come to Bethel have access to services that help them build their resumes and search for jobs.
“We are building relationships and helping them help themselves instead of doing it for them,” he said.
Wilson said at Bethel, homeless individuals are not just pushed through the doors but instead they establish trusting relationships, he said.
He said although Bethel does not provide meals every day, a high number of individuals come in and out of their doors every day because they feel they receive safety and respect, as well as the chance to take the streets off their back for a few hours.