Debate over homeless shelter heats up between county, town

Porchlight will operate day center through winter
Debate over homeless shelter heats up between county, town

As the weather cools down, the debate over a homeless shelter expansion heats up between Dane County and the town of Madison.

Dane County and the town of Madison have gone back and forth over the past several weeks over a homeless shelter on Martin Street in the town of Madison. Both sides have threatened legal action, but so far no lawsuits have been filed.

Porchlight, a homeless advocacy organization, currently operates the day shelter and recently agreed to sell it to Dane County for $330,000.

County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan said the county hopes to expand the facility into a full homeless shelter.

“There’s a need in Dane County to have a permanent day shelter for homeless citizens,” she said. “A place where they can go and not only be indoors, but also receive services.”

Corrigan said the expansion would open the shelter’s doors to more homeless people, though she added it would not be significantly more.

However, the building’s sale has since been put on hold after objections from town of Madison officials, who maintain the county has to obtain a conditional use permit before moving forward.

The county’s board of adjustments weighed in on the issue, ultimately ruling Dane County did not need that permit. That decision has prompted the town of Madison to consider appealing to a circuit court.

“The town of Madison needs to do what they decide they need to do, but we feel we have a right to operate a center there,” Corrigan said. “It’s an important service that’s really needed in this county.”

At the town board’s Monday meeting, members did not take any action on that potential litigation and refused to comment on the issue or whether they would consider action in the future.

Corrigan said Porchlight will continue to operate the Martin Street day center through this winter season.