Supporting Our Unsheltered Neighbors
In recent months, City and County staff, City-funded homeless outreach teams and many grass roots organizations and partners have devoted much attention to working with people in our community experiencing homelessness who are unsheltered. To better coordinate this work over the winter months, City staff for months have been convening weekly meetings of involved partners.
The results have been encouraging. The numbers of unsheltered homeless have been reduced by more than half since September. Many have been supported in expanded and improved shelter facilities, like the City’s former Fleet Facility on First Street serving men, and at local hotels, while others have been helped to gain access to housing, including at the second Tiny House location established by Occupy Madison with City and County support.
Of course, extreme cold weather brings added urgency to this work. Ahead of the current severe weather event, City, County and outreach staff further intensified their focus on unsheltered homeless persons. City supported outreach workers at Catalyst for Change, as well as groups like Tellurian, Sankofa Behavioral and Community Health, Mach One Health, Friends of State Street, First United Methodist Church and others have been working long hours to make people in encampments aware of options available to them and keep them safe. And with help from Dane County, and private donations, dozens of people in unsheltered locations have been able to escape the cold through temporary placement in newly secured hotel rooms.
The City, in partnership with Dane County, provides financial support for an array of night and day-time shelter services for persons experiencing homelessness. By converting our former Fleet Facility at 200 N. First Street to a temporary men’s shelter late last year, the City has more than doubled the number of men that can be safely sheltered. The facility is currently operating at about half capacity. The shelter, ably operated by Porchlight, Inc., opens at 5:00 p.m. each night and provides dinner and breakfast meals to guests. Free bus transportation is available, beginning at 4:45 from the Beacon Day Resource Center at 615 E. Washington Avenue. Bus rides are available to people whether or not they use the Beacon. Free, on-site guest parking is also available. Anyone with questions about the shelter should call 608 416-1446.
Single women in need of shelter can go to The Salvation Army shelter at 630 E. Washington Ave. Typical intake hours are 4:15 - 5:00 p.m., but women can show up any time during extreme cold weather, and can remain at the facility throughout the day. Questions should be directed to 608 250-2220 during business hours or 608 513-2392 after 4:00 p.m.
Families with children have a number of options. Through February 12, The Salvation Army is planning to operate an overflow day warming center at 630 E. Washington Ave. for families. The center will serve families that include a child under age 18 (or over 18, if enrolled in high school). Families may come to Salvation Army between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Lunch and dinner will be provided. Capacity for the family warming center is 30 people. Families will be asked to wear masks and complete a COVID-19 screen upon entry. If you are working with or know a family in need of a place to go during the day, please call the Salvation Army’s main line (608-250-2200) to make sure there is space.
Families in need of night time shelter should call the Salvation Army family shelter intake line at (608) 250-2298. Families will be asked to leave a message with their name, family size and contact number/email for follow up.
Families in need of shelter can also reach out to Sankofa Educational Leadership United at (608) 618-9977 or complete an online intake here to access services.
During the day, The Beacon, operated by Catholic Charities with financial support from Dane County and the City, remains a critical resource for those experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. The Beacon is open seven days a week, between 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., but will typically open earlier, at 7:30 a.m., during excessive cold. The Beacon is a valuable and attractive venue during daytime hours, however, the need for its services has been reduced somewhat during the pandemic because families, and those singles being sheltered in local hotels, are allowed to remain and receive some support at those locations 24 hours a day.
Meanwhile, our efforts to establish new, permanent shelter facilities for men and for families and single women are progressing. Last month, we identified a location for a permanent men’s shelter on Zeier Road. It will replace a series of temporary facilities that have been used since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and, before that, cramped quarters in downtown churches that have served the community for the past 35 years. We expect to be able to announce further shelter solutions for families and single women early in 2021.
I know Madisonians are concerned about the safety of their fellow residents. If you become aware of someone who is sleeping outside or in vehicles and are not sure if they are connected with our outreach services, you can bring the situation to our attention by emailing Sarah Lim, City of Madison Community Development Division, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The area’s outreach program directory can be found on the Homeless Services Consortium website here.