After the Dane County Board of Supervisors failed to agree on a long-awaited location for a daytime homeless center, the future of the facility remains uncertain.
The Shine Initiative announced its decision to suspend negotiations in a letter to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi Monday, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal. In the letter, the group said they would not operate the proposed facility until a site has been secured.
The county had explored several sites before settling on a former Porchlight site on Martin Street, off Fish Hatchery Road, in the township of Madison. Some county board members expressed concerns that the site’s location was too far from the overnight shelters and other resources for the homeless located downtown, according to Dane County Board Supervisor Leland Pan, District 5.
“It’s not close to downtown; it’s not close to where homeless people sleep and catch the bus,” Heidi Wegleitner, Dane County Board supervisor, District 2, said.
The city has a limited number of bus passes for those with low incomes, but the supply runs out quickly, Wegleitner said.
The town of Madison and the surrounding neighborhood had their concerns as well, according to Pan. The town does not have the capability to add a sprinkler system to the site, which, combined with space and safety concerns, led the town to reject the conditional use permit for the site.
The proposed comprehensive day resource center would provide access to laundry services, showers, personal storage space and connections with legal and medical services, many of which are located downtown, according to Wegleitner.
Dane County’s 2013 budget provided $600,000 for the purchase of a site for a day center, and money was allocated for the facility’s operational needs in the 2014 county budget. The money remains in the county’s upcoming 2015 budget.
The Shine Initiative currently operates several other services for the homeless. It works to provide services to those with substance abuse or mental health issues and those who have banned from other services for a variety of reasons, including assistance locating housing and employment opportunities, according to their website.
The initiative was founded last year by Sarah Gillmore and Z! Haukeness, who had worked together to establish a daytime warming shelter in Madison during the winter of 2012. That shelter, run through Porchlight, closed in March 2013.
Despite the concerns, Pan said some board members still believe the Martin Street site is a viable option.
“I think there are folks who want to make the Martin Street site work by next winter, and there are folks who want to try to find a different site, so that conversation will have to be reopened,” he said.
Establishing a relationship and building trust between the homeless population and the county is key, and was something Shine excelled at, Wegleitner said.
For Wegleitner, the transportation issue alone is enough to disqualify the Martin Street site, and a viable solution is long overdue.
“We can’t afford to waste any more time with the Martin Street site,” Wegleitner said. “Our community deserves better.”