Supervisor Tests Weekend Access to Proposed Homeless Center; Finds Distance and Transportation are Serious Issues

MADISON – Dane County Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner celebrated Mother's Day by exploring how a homeless mother might travel to a proposed Dane County homeless day services center.

Her trip with infant son Lincoln in a stroller from downtown to south Madison -- normally a 10-minute drive -- was a long, wet, 3-hour trek, with no services available at her destination.

Wegleitner, a housing attorney who represents District 2, wanted to see how long it might take a person staying at Madison's Salvation Army Family Shelter - located downtown on East Washington Ave. - to reach the site proposed for Dane County's homeless day center without a car. Her one-way walk, toting a diaper bag and a full backpack, took an hour and 15 minutes.

“There is no concrete transportation plan to move people back and forth from downtown to this site,” said Wegleitner. “I am afraid that the Board is being asked to approve the purchase of a property three miles from downtown that many homeless persons may not be able to use.”

Facing a rain storm, Wegleitner and her son approached the current Porchlight, Inc. homeless facility, only to find it was closed on Sundays. They then waited for a once-an-hour bus, which took 35 minutes to return them to downtown Madison. The trip left Wegleitner concerned about the County's ability to serve homeless people at the proposed site.

On Thursday, May 15, the County Board is scheduled to consider Resolution 305, which would authorize the purchase of 1490 Martin Street, the Porchlight building. Wegleitner proposes a delay.

"I, and other supervisors, remain concerned by the lack of a fully funded plan to ensure that people with very few resources will be able to benefit from a day resource center that is three miles from downtown," Wegleitner said. "The public expects us to get this right the first time."

Wegleitner is a member of the County's Homeless Issues Committee, which she initiated. 

"The day center faces a structural deficit to operate in 2015 and our private partner has not committed to operations beyond the first quarter of 2015," Wegleitner said. "My plan is to take 30 days to pursue a downtown location with authority to spend $4 million. We can do this without pushing back the timeline for renovation of the Martin Street site, should our search fail."