Local government officials announce location of permanent homeless men’s shelter The Badger Herald

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and County Executive Joe Parisi announcement On Wednesday, they found a location for a permanent shelter for homeless men.

The city has spent the last year scouting for the ideal location, debating whether to start with a demolition or an existing building. The new location, 1902 Bartillon Drive, will be able to provide homeless men with specialized and dignified services, according to the press release.

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Community Development Division Director Jim O’Keefe said 1902 Bartillon would be the perfect location because it’s close to public transportation, grocery stores and other local services. The approximate building schedule for the competition is 2024, O’Keefe said.

The City of Madison and Dane County have already allocated $9 million for the shelter and will learn final cost estimates as the design process progresses, according to the press release.

For the past 35 years, emergency shelter services have relied on churches in Madison to house them. O’Keefe said the old churches, especially Grace Episcopal Church, were inadequate for the proper services they wanted to provide to the homeless community.

“We used [church basements] to provide a service that, frankly, they just weren’t very well equipped to do,” O’Keefe said.

At the start of the pandemic, emergency shelter services had to abandon churches for health and safety reasons, according to O’Keefe. Since then, services have relied on the use of temporary facilities.

Although the process for this project began before COVID-19, O’Keefe said the pandemic actually helped speed up the process of finding a location and starting planning. Once it was clear that they would not be allowed in the church basements, they knew they had to find a solution.

O’Keefe said they’re calling the new project a “purpose-built shelter” because decisions about what services to provide and deliver will be made before the building is built, allowing them to build with intent.

“This is a big deal, and the first time we’re actually going to build a facility to prove shelter services to men in our community who are experiencing homelessness,” O’Keefe said.

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One of the main amenities that the city will aim to include is a dedicated space for people with disabilities and health issues. In addition, the city wishes to be able to provide a secure storage unit for the belongings of the homeless.

“We want a safe, clean, functional space,” O’Keefe said. “We want to be able to provide safe rooms, toilets and showers.”

O’Keefe explained that what makes a shelter well-resourced is enough staff and the means to manage them. The city said in the press release that it will work closely with the stakeholders involved to ensure the success of the operation.

“Today marks a new day in Madison’s approach to homeless services,” Mayor Rhodes-Conway said in the news release. “This site has access to amenities, including public transit, but more importantly, it is large enough to build a facility that will provide safety, dignity and opportunity for people experiencing homelessness.”

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