Men’s homeless shelter to increase security, require weapons screening following shooting

MADISON, Wis. — The temporary men’s homeless shelter located at 200 N. First Street on Madison’s east side will have increased security measures in place following Monday night’s shooting.

Porchlight’s Executive Director Karla Thennes said since the shooting, “We’ve spent the last 36 hours talking about nothing else. How can we make this experience for every guest, every staff person and every volunteer who enters our facility to feel safe?”

Thennes said although this is the first incident of gun violence in 35 years of running the men’s shelter, one time was enough.

“Guests will walk in the door and we do a very extensive health screening every night and then each guest will be asked to empty any metals out of their pocket and then they will need to set their belongings, their small suitcase or small duffel bag on the table, open it up and then it will be wanded.”

Thennes said they are working with a private security company to staff two guards overnight who are trained in de-escalation. The private security guards start their shifts Wednesday night.

The shelter was able to reopen Tuesday evening with Madison police officers providing increased security assistance in lieu of having immediate assistance from the private security company.

Thennes said they’ve tried several different security models in the past.

“We’ve done a private security company from 5 p.m. when we open until 8 in the morning. We’ve also tried from 5 p.m. til midnight which is our busy time. We’ve also tried just adding numbers to our staff,” Thennes said.

Both guests involved in the shooting were well known by staff members at the shelter. Thennes said their only goal was to make sure everyone had a roof over their head. Now, it’s Thennes’ number one priority to make sure some of our most vulnerable community members are protected.

“This is going to slow down that intake process but we see it as a safety measure that we need to take.”

Ninety seven guests were staying at the shelter the night of the shooting. Thennes said the following night, 87 guests stayed there and others found alternate accommodations for the night. Thennes said the victim in the shooting has gone through two surgeries and is expected to live.

Madison police are still searching for the suspect involved.