The news finally broke yesterday. Dane County has purchased Porchlight’s Hospitality House facility which will be the site of the new Day Resource Center. Here’s the press release.
I’ve written about the need for such a facility before and I’ve also written about the difficulty the County and others have had in finding an appropriate site. In some ways, Hospitality House seems like the path of least resistance. It’s in the Town of Madison rather than in the city so there won’t be much pushback from city administration or alders. It will be located at a site where some of the same services have been offered for years, so there shouldn’t be a lot of pushback from neighbors.
Pat Schneider’s article includes interviews with homeless advocates who are opposed to this location and claim to have been shut out of the process. Here’s where it is: a half-hour bus ride from downtown. While I share their concerns about how this process has played out, I am also acutely aware of how difficult the search for an adequate facility has been. I think it’s safe to say that the downtown area has been carefully searched for possible sites to no avail. One of the problems is that in this real estate market, few property owners are going to want to sell underused land or buildings to the county when they might be able to sell it at a high profit for another upscale apartment complex. I also appreciate that few County politicians or bureaucrats want to start another dust-up with city officials who would likely have opposed any proposed location.
One of the persistent difficulties faced by Hospitality House in the past has been transportation from downtown. Porchlight has operated a van that has transported guests from the Salvation Army and the Drop-In Men’s shelter downtown to Hospitality House but that hasn’t always been an effective means of getting people back and forth. The County will need to assess the transportation needs of the new Day Resource Center and have an effective plan in place when the Center opens in order for this renovated facility to be a success.
What homeless advocates and community members need to do now is work with the county and those who will operate the Day Resource Center to ensure its success. Let’s make sure we get the best facility possible with the necessary resources, fitted out with showers, storage, and laundry, and access to the support services that can help homeless people find adequate housing and stabilize their situations.