A Big Step Forward for Madison's Homeless Services
Posted on Thursday, Mar. 11, 2021 at 4:53 pm
The City is poised to take a big step forward in meeting the need for emergency shelter facilities for homeless men. For 35 years, our community has relied upon small, often crowded spaces made available in the basements of churches in Madison’s downtown. The insufficiencies of those venues were magnified last spring with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, ultimately forcing a move to safer, temporary settings, first at Warner Park, later at the City’s Fleet Services property.
Madison and Dane County's quick action to create alternative shelter options during the pandemic protected the health and well-being of the City's homeless population and the general population as well.
Going forward it is clear that Madison needs a full-service facility that offers safety and dignity and a path to stable housing for men experiencing homelessness. Our team has been evaluating available locations since April of 2020. We believe we have found a strong site for such a facility in a property located on Zeier Road on the City’s east side.
The Zeier Road site offers an existing structure well suited to function as an overnight shelter. The site is currently served by public transit and is within a short distance of a planned bus rapid transit route. We envision offering a range of supportive services onsite that have been lacking in our shelter system. These might include mental health support, job training, and connection to employment, in addition to basic needs like storage and laundry. These services will be critical to helping people move into permanent housing.
In partnership with Dane County, the City plans to build a shelter that is right sized for our community needs. It's estimated that during the winter we have up to 250 men experiencing homelessness in our community. Not all will utilize a shelter, some may seek refuge with friends, but we strive to ensure that on the most extreme cold weather nights that men, who have no other resources, can find safe shelter. We are continuing to evaluate a right sized shelter for our community needs but there is no plan to double the shelter capacity.
A resolution to authorize the City’s purchase of the Zeier Road property has been introduced. With Common Council approval, and in partnership with Dane County, we will be one step closer to providing quality services to members of our community who most need them.