Dane County won't have a permanent day shelter for the homeless until next year. Meanwhile, stopgap measures are in place to get homeless people out of the cold and provide medical and employment services.
Communities around Wisconsin trying to open day shelters for the homeless often face obstacles. In Dane County, getting enough money for costly real estate has been tough, says Dane County Board Chairman John Hendrick.
“For $600,000, you can't even get people to return your calls,” says Hendrick.
$600,000 is how much the county put in last year's budget to buy a building. Hendrick says they're close to a deal on a site for a permanent day shelter for the homeless. It will not be ready this winter and it will not be downtown.
“We need to have a building we can afford in a neighborhood where we can get approval for it,” says Hendrick. “We need a building that has the proper zoning, and if we could get that within a couple blocks of the Capitol Square we would. But apparently not.”
To provide transportation to and from a day shelter miles from the center of Madison, the county has contracted with the nonprofit, Porchlight Incorporated. Dane County Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner says the county is giving Porchlight a 15-passenger van it can use.
“To take people from downtown shelter locations and areas like the library and Bethel [Lutheran Church] to other services around the city where they can access mental health treatment, employment services at the job center, and address basic needs like showering,” says Wegleitner.
Bethel Lutheran Church has expanded its day services for the homeless. The Madison Public Library will also have help available for the homeless. Both the county and city are looking at ways to provide permanent housing in the future, such as single room occupancy.