Madison and Dane County leaders have announced a new location for a men’s homeless shelter. The new facility at 2002 Zeier Road will be Madison’s first permanent men’s homeless shelter since the pandemic broke out in March.
The project is a collaboration between Dane County and the City of Madison, and both governments pledged about $3 million each to support it. According to a press release from the city, the upfront cost for purchasing the property will be about $2.6 million.
The remaining $3.4 million will go towards other costs associated with the facility. In a press briefing this morning, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said that the new facility will be ‘purpose-built,’ compared to the city’s recent men’s homeless shelters.
“It’s important for us to have more space, and it’s important that it be purpose-built so that we’re not sort of sacrificing functionality by building in a haphazard manner,” Rhodes-Conway said.
Prior to the pandemic, the city’s homeless shelters primarily operated out of downtown church basements. Those cramped conditions became infeasible with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, and housing operations were moved to Warner Park.
Then, last month, shelter operations moved again to Madison’s former fleet services building on the east side. But, that solution was also a temporary one, since the fleet services building is slated to eventually become the Madison Public Market.
Matt Wachter is Madison’s Director of Planning, Community and Economic Development. Wachter and his department oversaw the selection process for the new site.
He says a number of factors went into the final decision — including, but not limited to, layout of the space and access to transportation. The East Towne Mall, right next to the site, is serviced by five bus lines, four of which run seven days a week.
The timing and feasibility of closing a deal on short notice also played a major factor.
“We are operating out of temporary facilities and need to get to something permanent sooner rather than later,” Wachter told WORT. “It’s not reasonable to think that we’d be able to buy a building that had tenants with multi-year leases that we’d have to break and relocate. So we needed a building that was available on a reasonable timeline.”
He adds that, while the city is rushing to complete the process and get the new shelter opened as soon as possible, the project will still go through the normal approval process and residents will be allowed to offer public comment.
But, as to a specific timeline for opening? That’s still up in the air.
“We’re moving as quickly as we can on it, but I don’t have a set date,” he says. “Our engineering department will be posting a rough schedule, but we’re going to do everything we can to move as quickly as possible to get the building up and running. But, it will take time.”
This isn’t the first time the city has settled on a new location for a permanent men’s homeless shelter. In October, a deal for a new homeless shelter fell through after the property owner pulled out the day after city leaders announced the sale.
(PHOTO: Brian Standing / WORT News)