Dane County Board approves site for homeless shelter

Shelter could be open by Nov. 1
Dane County Board approves site for homeless shelter

A new homeless shelter could be open in Dane County by next winter.

The Dane County Board approved a site to buy at Thursday’s meeting. It is located on Martin Street at Fish Hatchery Road. That’s located in the town of Madison.

The next step for the county is to submit an offer. County leaders have been searching for a site for a day shelter for more than a year and have looked at more than two dozen sites.

After nearly four hours of testimony and debate, the board approved the purchase of the 8,400-square-foot building on Martin Street in the town of Madison by a vote of 26-9, officials said.

The 2013 county budget included $600,000 for the purchase of a day center, but county staff could not find a suitable downtown location for that price, according to the release. The county nearly purchased a MARC Center property on Lien Road last fall, but the price was deemed too high.

The sponsor of the proposal, Supervisor Mary Kolar, asked the board to support the purchase saying, “Over two years of effort culminate with our approval of the purchase of 1490 Martin Street. There are obstacles, but we can work them out together. We will have a day resource center in 2014 where those in need can get assistance with housing, employment and health challenges,” according to the release.

The Martin Street location is currently the Hospitality House operated by Porchlight, Inc., according to the release. The county plans to buy the property for $330,000 and make renovations, including adding showers, laundry facilities and storage.

The location is more than two miles from downtown, which has prompted some to push the board to reject the plan and continue searching for a downtown location, officials said. Many of the people who testified against the purchase mentioned the lack of transportation to and from the site might make it inaccessible.

“A day center that people can’t use is like not having a day center,” community activist and Tenant Resource Center Executive Director Brenda Konkel said in the release. “This isn’t the game changer we were looking for. This isn’t going to change what happens to homeless people in our community.”

Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner has proposed allocating 30 days to explore purchase options for a more central location, and $4 million to secure a purchase.

“We’re missing the mark. This site is not well-served by transit. There’s no indication of any funds to increase bus service to this facility,” Wegleitner said. “Ultimately there’s a moral problem with not meeting people’s needs where they need to be met and making it hard for them. It’s not a question of whether it’s possible.”

The motion made to refer the matter back to committee failed by a vote of 21-14.

“There’s probably no such thing as a perfect location for a homeless resource facility, but we think this location is one that people can get to. It’s on major bus routes. We’ll also have van services available for folks who are downtown and want to get to there and are unable to for any reason,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

The board unanimously approved an amendment proposed by Supervisor Sheila Stubbs requiring neighborhood listening sessions during the renovation process, but rejected an amendment proposed by Supervisor Dorothy Krause that would force the county to reopen the process to find another site if the Martin Street site provides inadequate.

The center would only be open during the day. It would offer resources to gain training and find employment.

Parisi hopes the shelter will open on Nov. 1.