Madison Police Help Homeless Prepare For Winter

Wisconsin’s frigid winter weather hasn’t quite set in yet, but for those with nowhere warm to go, having a few essential items can make all the difference.

On the longest night of the year on Wednesday, dozens of homeless — mostly men — looked for a place to settle in for the night and away from the cold. Some curled just outside the City-County Building in Madison.

But on the other side of the CCB, police Sgt. Kelly Donahue and downtown police Officer Kelly Dougherty are armed with winter essentials to those in need.. The pair takes to the streets almost every day, handing out winter clothing to those in the cold as part of the department’s “We’ve Gotcha Covered” program, now in its sixth year. On Wednesday, it was gloves, hats and blankets for a group of men waiting to get into a shelter downtown.

Dougherty said these items may be all these people have to fight the elements.

?If they can?t get into the shelters, or if the shelters are full, they?ll sleep out here and try to find the heating grates or the bus shelter,? said Dougherty.

Some were reluctant to accept the gifts, but the officers said it?s also about building trust. Madison officers hope to use this program to create a better relationship with area homeless and also create a safer downtown.

?It?s a little bit of satisfaction of not always being the bad guy,? said Donahue.

Door Creek Church in Madison donates a lot, if not most, of the items, according to police. Parishioners actually made many of the mittens that are given out. But others who would like to help out can drop of donations of new or gently used, clean items at any police station in the city. Police also accept teddy bear donations.