It’s November 14th? Do you know where homeless people can stay warm on cold winter days in Madison?

I don’t either; at least, not yet. This has been quite the political football or hot potato. I won’t go into the history of efforts to provide a day shelter for Madison’s homeless population this winter but here we are with temperatures in the 30s and there’s still no concrete plan in place.

But hope springs eternal. Joe Tarr is reporting that there is money in Dane County’s 2013 budget for a permanent day shelter, which they hope to open next summer. In the meantime, we’ve got another Wisconsin winter to get through. The County has been working very hard to find space and money for a temporary shelter of some sort, and right now attention is focused on property on E. Washington Ave. The county has already allocated money for its operation through March; there’s a plan in place for staffing and security.

Opposition to the proposed location comes from the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association which had to deal with the poorly planned and organized day shelter last year and have legitimate complaints. In addition, the proposed property is adjacent to an agency that works with families and children dealing with abuse. Obviously putting a day shelter in close proximity to abuse victims is not an ideal situation and it will be crucial to have adequate planning and procedures to address the neighbors’ concerns.

I am much heartened by the County’s willingness to step forward to provide both a short-term solution, and more exciting still is the prospect of a permanent facility that will connect homeless people with necessary services like laundry, showers, and storage, as well as a central location to connect with agencies and programs that can help them find more stable living situations.

Of course, there’s always the City of Madison. Mayor Soglin has opposed the county’s earlier efforts to site the day shelter. According to reports last week, the Common Council put $25,000 toward a day shelter but I don’t know if that line remains in the city’s budget.


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