‘Too early to say:’ Timeline for sheltered campground remains uncertain as construction continues

Dairy Drive Tiny Homes

MADISON, Wis. — In two weeks, the city of Madison will open its first sheltered encampment site on Dairy Drive for those currently living in tents at Reindahl Park. The site will contain 30 housing structures, an office space for housing assistance and a communal bathroom and shower facility. 

Each 8-foot-by-8-foot housing structure will be fully equipped with electricity, lighting, a mini-fridge, and units for heating and air conditioning.

“There’s going to be warmth, and some structure for [the homeless individuals] to be and live temporarily, but also while they’re staying here they’ll be paired with resources and ways that they can transition out of these temporary units,” Engineering Division Public Information Officer Hannah Mohelnitzky said. 

Project funding

The project is being funded by federal COVID-19 relief dollars from the American Rescue Plan, which allocates about $2 million to both the Dairy Drive site and a possible second encampment location, according to Director of Community Development Jim O’Keefe. These funds can be used by the city until 2026.

City officials estimate the encampment will cost about $900,00 for one-time costs, such as building construction and lighting installation, and about 75,000 a month for operational costs to maintain the site.

One way in which the city is planning to cut down costs is through the use of a communal bathroom space as opposed to individual plumbing in each structure, according to Mohelnitzky.

Mohelnitzky said the duration of the encampment will depend on the needs of those living at the site.

“There’s no way we can put a timeline on that when we are trying to handle and work with people to find solutions that fit best for them,” Mohelnitzky said.

Site Longevity

If the site lasts more than two years, the city will likely have to draw funding elsewhere, according to O’Keefe.

“What happens after two years remains to be seen, and certainly that decision, if it falls in favor of continuing the campground, would also have to include a discussion about how to pay ongoing operating expenses,” O’Keefe said. 

Even if the site is no longer being used in the future, Mohelnitzky said the structures will likely have the ability to be reused.

“If there is use or opportunity to use it for years to come, or repurpose it, we always try to do that because it is the best use of the taxpayer’s money and also our community resources that are being put toward it,” Mohelnitzky said.

For now, how long the encampment will be utilized remains uncertain.

 “The best I can say right now is that it’s too early to say, it’s too early to know what we will do at the end of that two year period.”