Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and County Executive Joe Parisi announced Wednesday they have found a location for a permanent men’s homeless shelter.

The city has spent the past year looking for the perfect location, debating whether to start with a demolition or an existing building. The new location, 1902 Bartillon Drive, will be able to provide men experiencing homelessness with specialized and dignified services, according to the press release.

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Community Development Division Director Jim O’Keefe said 1902 Bartillon will be the perfect location, as it is close to public transit, groceries and other local services. The building’s rough timeline for competition is by 2024, O’Keefe said.

The City of Madison and Dane County have already allocated $9 million toward the shelter and will learn final cost estimates as the design process proceeds, according to the press release.

For the past 35 years, emergency shelter services have relied on Madison churches to host them. O’Keefe said the old churches, specifically Grace Episcopal Church, were inadequate for the proper services they wished to provide to the homeless community.

“We’ve used [church basements] to provide a service that, frankly, they were just not very equipped to provide,” O’Keefe said.

At the start of the pandemic, emergency shelter services had to abandon churches for health and safety issues, according to O’Keefe. Since then, the services have relied on using temporary facilities. 

While the process for this project began before COVID-19, O’Keefe said that the pandemic actually helped speed up the process for finding a location and getting the planning started. Once it was clear they wouldn’t be allowed in the church basements, they knew they needed to find a solution.

O’Keefe said they are calling the new project a “purpose built shelter” because the decisions for what services to provide and deliver will be decided before the building is constructed — allowing them to build with intent. 

“It’s a pretty big deal, and it’s the first instance where we will actually build a facility to prove shelter services to men in our community who experience homelessness,” O’Keefe said.

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One of the main amenities the city will aim to include is a dedicated area for those with disabilities and health issues. Additionally, the city wants the ability to provide a secure storage unit for the homeless’ personal belongings.

“We want a secure, clean and functional space,” O’Keefe said. “We want to be able to provide safe sleeping accommodations, restrooms, and showers.”

O’Keefe explained that what makes a shelter sufficiently resourced is a large enough staff and having the means to manage them. The city said in the press release they will work closely with stakeholders involved to ensure the operation is successful. 

“Today is a new day in Madison’s approach to homeless services,” said Mayor Rhodes-Conway in the press release. “This site has access to amenities, including transit, but more importantly, it is large enough to build a facility that will provide safety, dignity and opportunity for people experiencing homelessness.”