Bartillon Drive property (copy)

The city and county have jointly allocated $9 million for a new, first-of-its-kind permanent men’s shelter at 1902 Bartillon Drive.

Madison and Dane County announced plans Wednesday to build a new permanent men’s shelter at 1902 Bartillon Drive on Madison’s east side for men experiencing homelessness.

“Today is a new day in Madison's approach to homeless services. Today, the city and the county embark on a serious and sustained effort to build a permanent, purpose-built shelter for men experiencing homelessness here in Madison,” Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in a joint press conference with Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

Dane County has allocated $3 million to help acquire and construct the new site, next to Reindahl Park, and next week the Madison City Council will take up a resolution seeking approval for the site and setting the stage for key next steps — selecting a design consultant and an operator.

The site at 1902 Bartillon Drive is already city-owned and was chosen for its access to amenities — like bus transit, a potential new city library, employment training and education opportunities — zoning compatibility and size.

“More importantly, it is large enough to build a facility that will provide safety, dignity and opportunity for people experiencing homelessness,” Rhodes-Conway said. 

For over 30 years, adult men who experienced homelessness locally have sought shelter in the basements of churches in downtown Madison, Rhodes-Conway explained Wednesday morning. While the mayor expressed her gratitude for those spaces and the people who have run them, she said it was time for a more permanent and purposeful solution.

“We are purposely building a shelter to give people a place to go and to connect to services and to connect to permanent housing, so we get to start from the ground up to think about what this population needs and how to design that into the building,” Rhodes-Conway said. “That, I think, is actually the most exciting thing about this project. Madison has never experienced this.”

“We don't have anything like it,” she added. “In fact, I don't think we have anything like it in the state of Wisconsin.”

The pandemic forced the closure of many church shelters, and Parisi said the city and county have had to adjust plans in order to provide safe overnight shelter over the past two years. 

The city has taken steps since the start of the pandemic to provide safer shelter arrangements, converting city facilities at Warner Park and First Street into temporary shelters, contracting with local hotels and setting up tiny homes at 3202 Dairy Drive.

But Rhodes-Conway emphasized the difference between the new shelter on Bartillon Drive and previous facilities, noting the new shelter is “not going to be anything like an encampment.”

Parisi said finding a shelter site is “never easy” and not a “final solution in and of itself,” but an essential step to provide the services needed to keep people safe and on the path to becoming housed.

“This is something new. We've never experienced having a shelter that is specifically designed to help and house this population and I think that's really exciting,” Rhodes-Conway said. “This is a big deal. It's a badly needed resource for our community. And it's been a long time coming.”

Rhodes-Conway also announced that the temporary men’s shelter, located in the city's former fleet maintenance facility at First Street, will move later this year to another city-owned property on Zeier Road, where it will remain until the new shelter opens.

The First Street facility is slated to be renovated to become the Madison Public Market and renovation is scheduled to begin late this summer, according to the city. By that time the Zeier Road property will be ready for use as a temporary shelter.

For the new shelter on Bartillon Drive, design work is expected to take the rest of this year and construction could begin in early 2023. The city and county have already budgeted a joint $9 million toward the shelter’s budget and will learn final cost estimates as design work continues.

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