As a way to help serve the thousands of homeless people living in Dane County, two day centers will be opening in Madison — one permanent facility and another for this winter only.

The 2013 Annual Report on Homeless Persons Served in Dane County reported 3,370 people stayed at least one night in a shelter in 2013. There are many resources in Dane County that help homeless individuals get the help they might need, but the services are scattered, Hayley Young, the District 5 County Board supervisor, said.

Day resource centers can take all of those services and house them in one central location.

In July, the county purchased the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce building as the site for a new county day resource center. But renovations will need to take place before the facility opens for homeless individuals, so it will not be up and running for this winter.

The county day resource center will provide access to showers, storage space, laundry, warming or cooling spaces, a kitchen, a computer lab, telephones, a mail/message center, a day room and more. Besides basic access, the county intends to include private offices to connect community services with those needing assistance. The county also intends to add permanent housing, legal, healthcare, mental health, employment and drug addiction treatment services. 

A few years ago, the county purchased the Messner property that was going to serve a similar function, but Young said the new site will be less expensive, more accessible and better serve the needs of the homeless community. 

Young said the county has been looking for a site closer downtown for a while and until the commerce building went on sale, it had not been able to find someone willing to sell a downtown location.

“This is the biggest amount of progress that we have had in finding a site that adequately meets the decision of what we want this to look like,” Young said. “This has the potential to really impact our community.” 

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The county still owns the Messner property, but has not determined its future use, according to a County Executive press release.

The county purchased the chamber of commerce building for $1.75 million. According to a County Executive press release, the Chamber building will cost at least $500,000 less for both the purchase and renovation. 

To help fill the need for a resource center this winter, Bethel Lutheran Church and Catholic Charities are teaming up to create a warming center with support groups and some homeless resources.

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Pastor Scot Sorensen, the senior pastor at Bethel, said creating a winter day center seemed like the natural thing to do since they are a church that cares about people and has a downtown location. 

Jackson Fonder, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities Madison, said the two organizations will be able to do the most if they work together.

“We know there are a lot of great organizations in Madison helping the homeless right now,” Fonder said. “We just want to do our part. We know that when you talk about poverty, when you talk about homelessness, there are a lot of pieces to that puzzle. This is just one piece.”

Sorensen said the winter day center will be open Monday through Friday beginning in November. He said the most important service the winter center will offer is relationship-building, because many homeless individuals find themselves without community, friendships and support networks.