The Beacon Day Shelter opened in October on East Washington Avenue. This is the first winter it has been active, serving members of Dane County’s homeless population. The Beacon’s director, Judith Metzger, says the shelter can act as a one-stop shop for homeless families and individuals.
“The Beacon provides those services and resources for people who need the pieces you need to get housing,” Metzger says.
Over the past week, Madison has seen more than its fair share of snow, ice, and sub-zero wind chills. Unfortunately, Metzger says, even with a new shelter open, Dane County’s homeless services struggle to provide for everyone needing shelter in this year’s cold, blustery, snowy conditions.
“When it’s particularly cold, obviously we have more people that are coming into the warmth,” Metzger says. “There’s solidly around 150 a day. The numbers since we’ve opened have been more than anybody thought would be average.”
During the day, homeless individuals in Madison can head to the Beacon, or spend time in the state capitol or public library. But come nighttime, when the weather is especially cold, options are limited for Madison families. Carly Sobye is a Housing Coordinator for the Salvation Army, and she says nights at the overnight shelter have been extremely crowded.
“Just last week we had the most women we’ve ever seen in shelter,” Sobye says. “We had 61 women stay with us. Our capacity used to be 30, and then we raised it to 45 and then we had 61. We’re always full with our family shelter.”
Sobye also says the Beacon’s opening has been very beneficial for the homeless community in Greater Madison, offering shelter and services during the day when overnight spaces close.
“I’ve waited for the Beacon to open for years,” Sobye says. “A year ago we didn’t have anyplace for our guests to go during the day, so them opening it was a lifesaver that people could get done here in the morning and just go across the street.”
For now, homeless women and families can rely on the Salvation Army, while homeless men depend on Porchlight, which operates a drop-in men’s shelter and two overflow shelters. But even with these services and the Beacon Day Shelter in operation, winter and homelessness are a miserable match in Madison.