After dozens of false starts, homeless day center gets another chance

Day resource center to help Dane County homeless population

After dozens of false starts, a permanent homeless day shelter may finally become a reality in Madison.

On Thursday afternoon, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced the county is set to buy the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce building for $1.75 million.

“As of today we have an accepted offer to purchase,” Parisi said. “The chamber building is as close to ideal a site as you will find.”

It is ideal in a number of ways, according to officials, especially for its location. The building is off East Washington Avenue right near Capitol Square. Hospitality House, a men’s homeless shelter, is within walking distance, and the Salvation Army family shelter is across the street.

“It’ll be very convenient for our residents to just walk across the street during the day,” Melissa Sorensen, a social services director at Salivation Army, said.

Parisi said the new shelter will be a one stop shop for the area’s homeless. The first floor of the two-story building will have things like showers and places to do laundry. On the second floor there will be things like mental health help and job counseling.

“Our community is rounding the corner in our response to the very challenging and complex issue of homelessness,” Parisi said.

The total cost for the building and renovations will be about $2.7 million, Parisi said. The county will cover those costs and get help paying for the operating costs from the city and other groups.

Despite setbacks during previous attempts to establish a day center, Parisi thinks this time the location will stick. The site isn’t in a residential area and some nearby businesses have given their blessings. The county will take a final vote on the location in August.

If all goes to plan, Madison will have a permanent day shelter by fall of 2017.

The county executive went out his way to thank the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce saying it put the community ahead of higher profits.

Chamber officials said they do not know where they will relocate yet.