Proposed permanent men’s homeless shelter falls one vote short in Madison common council

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 9:51 PM CDT|Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 8:35 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Despite nearly three-quarters of the Madison Common Council backing a permanent men’s homeless shelter in the city’s far east side, the proposal fell short in an early Wednesday morning vote.

The council met virtually Tuesday night to vote on the item, which according to the agenda, would amend the city’s 2021 budget and purchase property on 2002 Zeier Road. The building is near the East Towne Mall.

The vote failed, with 14 alders voting in favor, and five voting against. The agenda item needed 15 votes to pass because it is a budget item.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway blasted the decision in a statement released shortly after the vote, saying in part that the decision set back the city’s plans to build a shelter at least another year and will increase the cost of sheltering homeless men this coming winter.

“I find it remarkable that after the year we have had, and the extraordinary lengths the City has gone through to protect the most vulnerable, that some members of the Common Council chose not to take the final, critical step to establish a safe, secure, purpose-built shelter,” she said.

Madison's Common Council is voting whether to purchase this building on 2002 Zeier Road for a...
Madison's Common Council is voting whether to purchase this building on 2002 Zeier Road for a permanent men's homeless shelter(WMTV/Lou Thao)

Currently, the homeless men’s shelter is staged temporarily in the city’s former Fleet Services building.

Angel Soth, a manager at Soth Best Nails, works across the street from the potential new site. “I have no problem helping people who need help,” she told NBC15. “But this right here is not a spot for them because there are no resources at all.”

Soth said the better location is downtown, a hub for many homeless services including the Beacon. She also admitted her reason against the shelter’s move is personal.

“I don’t want to say it, but there’s going to be more panhandling, and a lot of people aren’t going to like it,” she said.

Meanwhile, Madison resident Shannon Barry shared her support for the move, also sharing her experiences living close to the current temporary shelter. She said she wanted to address the safety concerns she heard from residents.

“I have a family with a very small child,” she said. “We’re often walking in the neighborhood. We’ve had nothing but positive experiences with the guests of the Porchlight Shelter on First Street. The gentlemen have been truly gentlemen.”

Staff will now begin to work on acquiring an alternative location for the shelter. Council discussed two possible future locations, Pennsylvania Ave and the current Fleet Services temporary location.

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