Dane County is hoping to partner with University of Wisconsin to provide services at a proposed day center for the homeless.
The county is projected to open a day center within the next year. Officials said it would consolidate key support services and offer a potential platform for cross-discipline connection between UW students.
Professor Ruthanne Chun at UW School of Veterinary Medicine said, while there are many services available for the homeless, one of the biggest issues is access. She said the goal of the day center is to centralize vital services, which are currently spread far across the city, in a location highly accessible via public transport.
Chun said she hopes for a solid partnership between UW and the county with flexibility on both sides to best address the needs of the city’s homeless population.
The day center will provide laundry, shower, computers, rest and a hot meal. With access to the internet, visitors can apply for jobs, benefits, do online classes and much more according to County Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, District 2.
Many departments at UW require first-hand and interprofessional experience, Wegleitner said. She said she sees the center as somewhere graduate students studying law psychology, career advisement can all practice in the same hallway, guided by professors — a perfect platform for collaboration.
Wegleitner said it could tie in aspects from the School of Medicine, Social Work, Education and Pharmacy, and could be a place for students to connect with community through service work.
Wegleitner said a temporary day center set up downtown during the winters of 2012 and 2013 was a success.
“It was a neat, inspiring place to be,” Wegleitner said. “People who wouldn’t normally interact got to know one another and build relationships. It was really empowering.”
A space like the shelter could be invaluable for housing unstable families, Chun said.
In 2013, 23 percent of Madison’s homeless population was under 18.
Currently, Chun said, there are homeless students enrolled at UW who could benefit from services provided at the shelter.
Wegleitner said the center will provide medical care, immunizations and psychiatric care.
But there are still many unknowns in this hopeful partnership.
UW still has to apply individually or with another group in order to work with the center, something that would happen within the next several months, Wegleitner said.
According to Wegleitner, the projected site for the day center has not yet been formally approved.
Wegleitner said although the city has a site, the neighborhood should still have a say in how it is run. Wegleitner said neighbors are concerned about declining business or a possible increase in crime. Wegleitner is working to communicate with the community and address their concerns.
With the projected opening date of October 2016, a resource like this could mean a big difference in the lives of many Wegleitner said.
“The city is well aware that too many winters have passed without adequate housing and resources for people in difficult situations,” Chun said.