Catholic Charities to operate new homeless day resource center Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Sep. 15, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
catholic charities press conference
Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison talks at a September 7 press conference at Holy Name Heights in Madison announcing a partnership between Dane County and Catholic Charities Madison for a new homeless day resource center in Madison that will open next year. Also pictured with the bishop are Derrick Smith, director of strategic planning and special projects, Catholic Charities Madison (seated far left), and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi (seated second from left). (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MADISON -- Bishop Robert C. Morlino called it a way to “deepen our effort to be good neighbors, one to another in these days.”

On September 7, the bishop, along with city and county leaders, leaders with Catholic Charities Madison, and other organizations that help the area homeless announced and praised a new partnership during a press conference at Holy Name Heights in Madison.

The partnership is between Catholic Charities and Dane County to operate a homeless day resource center to be housed at 615 East Washington Ave. in Madison, near the downtown area.

Solving challenges

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the county has been committed to solving the challenge of helping the homeless in the area.

Parisi called it the “ideal location to help our homeless friends in need” and decided to partner with Catholic Charities because “we want to do this right and we want to do this right the first time.”

Catholic Charities Madison was selected as the center operator of the new facility by Dane County through a request for proposals submission process.

The goals for the new partnership include support for those suffering from poverty; refuge from the elements; offering referrals to appropriate services as needed by each individual; providing direct services such as a computer lab, laundry, showers, and storage; and building trusting relationships.

Catholic Charities Madison plans to hold neighborhood information meetings for input on the center and is working with other providers to collaborate on services.

Jackson Fonder, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Madison, called the number of homeless in the Madison area “disturbing” and said he hopes to “create a special environment, not just an environment of service, but an environment that allows people to feel warm, welcome, safe, and respected.”

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Fonder said, thanking the other organizations that came out for the announcement.

“There’s no way we can do this alone -- we need your help,” Fonder told them.

Some of the organizations represented included: Porchlight, the YWCA, Urban League, Bethel Lutheran Church, Grace Episcopal Church, First United Methodist Church, and others who all support the homeless in Dane County.

Bishop Morlino called the partnership the Diocese of Madison’s way of answering Pope Francis’ request to celebrate the Year of Mercy in a visible way.

“If we can do something that would make Pope Francis happy, then let’s do it,” Bishop Morlino said.

The new facility

Dane County recently purchased the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce 13,000-square-foot, two-story building on East Washington Ave. for $1.75 million.

The chamber is set to relocate by November and then work will begin on the renovation of offices into the resource center at an estimated cost of $1 million.

The county and Catholic Charities are currently negotiating a contract that will need to be approved by the Dane County Board and signed by the county executive.

The process is expected to be completed by November.

Prior to the new center’s opening next summer, Catholic Charities Madison is joining with Bethel Lutheran in the expanded operation of the Winter Day Resource Center within the church located at 312 Wisconsin Ave. in downtown Madison.

This partnership will provide services and support to bridge the gap until the day resource center is ready to open its doors.

Bishop Morlino hopes the partnership with Bethel Lutheran is the “first of many efforts to work together as good neighbors who love people.”