Last night, the Dane County Board of Supervisors passed a budget item that will give nearly $1.5 million to the Salvation Army of Dane County for its proposal to demolish its existing shelter and build an expanded shelter in the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood on Madison’s east-side.
The Salvation Army purchased the old St. Patrick’s Catholic School for Boys in 1977 and converted the building into its emergency family and single women shelters. According to the Salvation Army’s Special Events and Marketing Coordinator Kaitlyn Novotny, those shelters have a capacity of 22 families and 45 women respectively.
“Both of which are the only shelters of their kind in Dane County. So, if families and single women have nowhere else to turn for the night, and we can’t take them in, they have nowhere to go,” Novotny says.
The City of Madison’s Plan Commission also approved the plan for construction of a new Salvation Army campus last night. Supporters say the nearly $25 million project would significantly improve and expand services.
While the Salvation Army would be able to turn away fewer individuals by developing these shelters, some critics who live near the property, such as Tim Kubichek, argue that the shelters have caused an increase of criminal activity in the area.
“Police calls to the Salvation Army, not including emergency services [in] 2014 [were] 208. [In] 2018 [there were] 396, a near double. That’s what I deal with today,” says Kubichek. “I live right across the street. Ultimately, if we triple the size of this thing, what are we going to get for police calls in my neighborhood? A thousand? Twelve-hundred? Fourteen-hundred? We’ve talked about the police; can they handle that? I don’t know. Nobody wants people to homeless, but ultimately the execution is bad.”
Alder Patrick Heck represents the near east-side on the Madison City Council. He disputes the argument that the Salvation Army’s presence is to blame for these calls, but he does say there is a correlation.
“I think it can be said that the Salvation Army does not cause the problems, per se, but certainly if the Salvation Army was not there, there would be fewer safety and security concerns voiced and experienced by nearby neighbors,” Heck says.
Still, Heck points to Central District Lieutenant Detective Alexander Berkovitz’s public comments from last night’s meeting to provide better context.
Berkovitz notes that while calls in the neighborhood surrounding the shelter have increased, those calls have not necessarily indicated an uptick in more violent crimes.
“A lot the calls range. It could be for a variety of reasons. One thing I can say is that major cases are not coming out of the Salvation Army. So, we’re talking about strong-arm robberies, substantial batteries, sexual assaults — they are not coming out of the Salvation Army in terms of occurring on that site,” Berkovitz notes.
Sharon Corrigan is the Chair of the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From her perspective, the County’s support for this expansion could actually improve public safety in the area.
“Having a place for people to go provides safety for a community because you don’t end up having people living on the streets and being vulnerable to other people preying on them,” Corrigan says. “So, I think having housing for people in need makes the community safer for those individuals and everyone else in the community, too.”
After hearing public comments, the Plan Commission unanimously recommended approval of the project.
The project now goes to Madison’s City Council for a final vote.