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Neighbors oppose plans for homeless day shelter

Published On: Oct 10 2012 10:05:17 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 11 2012 03:01:08 PM CDT

MADISON, Wis. -

Residents in a neighborhood on Madison's east side want Dane County leaders to nix their plan to move a homeless day shelter into their neighborhood.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi has proposed that shelter for a county-owned former military building in the 1400 block of Wright Street in the greater Truax neighborhood in the area just north of East Washington Avenue and south of Madison College.

At a community meeting Wednesday, neighbors said they feel like the county's forcing this on them at the last minute. The shelter could open Nov. 1, but the area's county supervisor said he has an alternative site for consideration.

Porchlight, a group that helps the homeless, would run the shelter, as it did last winter at the now-demolished Don Miller showroom on East Washington Avenue.

The shelter would operate only during the day, and vans would transport the homeless from downtown. The homeless usually pass their time on the Capitol Square.

Neighbors said they have concerns about homeless people hanging around in the area and causing problems.

"This is not really an appropriate place," said Karin Barreu, who lives near the proposed shelter location.

"What's going to happen to these people at 4 o'clock when school lets out? Where are they going to go, and what's going to happen to our community and our neighborhood from that point on?" said John Skillrud, who owns a nearby laundromat.

County leaders said they're still open to suggestions, but they said winter isn't far away.

"Somebody give us a gym with showers and locker rooms (within) two blocks of the (Capitol) Square -- we're in; I would love it. I have had not one call," said Lynn Green, of Dane County Human Services.

Paul Rusk, the local county supervisor, said he opposes Parisi's Wright Street proposal. Instead, Rusk said the county should use the now-abanonded Lussier Teen Center in the 800 block of East Washington Avenue.

That site is closer to the Capitol Square and wouldn't require a zoning change, Rusk told WISC-TV at the community meeting. It is next to the Rainbow Project, an organization that provides assistance to children and families who've experienced trauma.

Shelby Andrews, who has been homeless for four years, said she isn't looking forward to facing winter without someplace to go.

"It's a whole big mess, and I think something needs to be done about all of it. There are too many homeless people and there's not enough room and space," Andrews said.

Porchlight's director told the neighbors that 85 percent of homeless people don't cause problems. But Madison police records indicated there was nearly a call per day at the former Don Miller shelter over a three-month period last winter.

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