Catholic Charities brings experience to the table Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Sep. 15, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
Jackson Fonder, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Madison, discusses a new partnership with Dane County to operate a new Homeless Day Resource Center at a press conference held at Holy Name Heights. (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MADISON -- A recent report shows that 3,370 people need homeless services in Dane County. The survey included 473 families with 946 children under the age of 18.

“These are disturbing numbers,” said Jackson Fonder, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Madison in an interview. “It catches us in Madison off guard.”

Fonder noted that Madison is a city that is experiencing low unemployment and has a strong government base and the University of Wisconsin. “We like to think of ourselves as a progressive city, but yet we have homelessness and racial disparity here.”

Helping the homeless

That’s why Fonder said Catholic Charities is entering into a partnership with Dane County to operate a new Homeless Day Resource Center.

“Our mission is serving the poor, including people who are homeless and struggling with poverty. This is the core of our Church values,” Fonder emphasized. “Shouldn’t we be doing this work?”

The resource center will be housed in the former Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce building located at 615 E. Washington Ave. near downtown Madison. Dane County purchased the building and will spend about $1 million to remodel it. Fonder said Catholic Charities will be involved in the remodeling project. The building is expected to open by summer of 2017.

In the meantime, Catholic Charities will join Bethel Lutheran Church in downtown Madison to operate a Winter Day Resource Center at the church.

Fonder said the homeless project will be the “biggest thing on our deck” for the next five years. “This goes to the top of the list,” he said.

Experience, partnerships

Since 1946, Catholic Charities has experience dealing with mental health counseling, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, food pantries, and assistance for families, children, and the disabled. “Now we’re taking all of our skills and resources and bringing them to the table,” said Fonder.

But Catholic Charities won’t do it alone, he said. “One word that describes what we do is ‘partnership.’ We will reach out and make new relationships while working with existing partnerships.”

The resource center will help connect people with resources and navigate them through the system, said Fonder. “We want to give them dignity and respect. For some, that’s everything.”