In the absence of a day center this winter, Dane County and the City of Madison cobbled together services that were intended to bridge the gap until a permanent facility could open. A confluence of circumstances this week demonstrate the shortcomings of that approach and put homeless people at serious risk.
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will see some of the coldest temperatures of the year so far with several inches of snow predicted for Wednesday. According to homeless advocate Brenda Konkel, none of the sites that currently serve homeless people during the day will be open on New Year’s. These include the Central Library, Bethel Lutheran Church, and the City-County Building. The library will also be closed on New Year’s Eve. Will the State Capitol be open on New Year’s?
While the shelters are currently not turning away anyone at night, in ordinary circumstances they close after breakfast, sending guests out on their own to look for shelter from extreme temperatures. A story about that here (quite misleading because Grace does not accommodate 170 men at night; overflow shelters at St. John’s Lutheran and First Methodist offer space and mats on the floor).
In the summer of 2012, the city opened Monona Terrace and other facilities during a heatwave. I wonder if there are contingency plans in place for the next few days. The cold wave is predicted to continue–the low on Thursday night will be -13 and on the weekend many of the facilities that are closed for New Year’s will be closed again.