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Full-Service Homeless Day Resource Center Opens in Madison; “The Beacon” Shines with the Warm Light of Help & Hope

The Beacon, a full-service day resource center for the homeless and marginalized in Madison, opened on October 16 at 8 am. A cooperative effort of Dane County, the City of Madison, United Way, and Catholic Charities, The Beacon provides for a wide variety of homeless needs in one central place, and thus make it easier for homeless people to advance up and out of the tough plights they are in. The Beacon is operated by Catholic Charities which has committed to contribute $172,000 annually to the effort. The other partners have also committed funds to the operation, but the exact amounts have yet to be finalized. The Beacon facility is a renovation of the Greater Madison Chamber of Congress Building on 615 East Washington Street, directly across the street from the Salvation Army. It occupies 12,000 square feet of space that includes all of the two-story building and its backyard. The building was bought by Dane County in 2016, which hired J.H. Findorff & Son to handle the renovation. The Beacon is open from 8 am to 5 pm every day of the week, 365 days a year, and will be run by 12 full- and part-time paid staffers, as well many volunteers (72 volunteers have already been trained or have signed up for training and over 600 have indicated an interest in volunteering). The volunteers are being recruited and trained by Catholic Charities Volunteer Coordinator Tami Fleming, a trained social worker who founded the Friends of the State Street Family (http://www.friendsofthestatestreetfamily.org/) seven years ago. If you are interested in volunteering to work at The Beacon, you may contact Tami at 608-445-7067 or at tfleming@ccmadison.org. Information on the various volunteer opportunities can be found at www.thebeaconhelps.org. AM and PM shift times are available for the nine-hour day.

The Beacon will provide private shower facilities (7), laundry services, free access to land-line telephones, food in the form of snacks and lunches, a mail center, a computer lab with 25 computers (both for job hunting and resumes, and also for classes in computer skills), and transport from The Beacon to overnight shelters. Services will continue to be added over the first several months, including street medicine, therapy animals, foot care, AA/NA meetings, and employment services; free haircuts will also be available as will clothes that can be used to present a good image during job interviews.

A wide variety of social services will also be offered on the second floor of the renovated building, including coordinated entry, case management, housing assistance, SSI application help, food security benefits. Badgercare and different service groups like Briarpatch, Porchlight, the Salvation Army, Community Action Coalition, F-SET, Tellurian, CARE Wisconsin, Second Harvest, and the VA Homeless Outreach Program will be scheduled to operate from this site on a regular basis. Guests of The Beacon will readily receive housing assistance and help in their employment searches. Assistance with obtaining ID’s and birth certificates will be also be offered.

Jackson Fonder, CEO and President of Catholic Charities, noted that The Beacon will have a very large meeting room that can be divided in two and may serve as a site for ESL classes, GED work, 12-Step meetings, and other important gatherings.

Mr. Fonder noted that “a robust volunteer program will be the cornerstone” of the effort at The Beacon which intends to provide “a positive environment that is compassionate, safe, and welcoming.” The Beacon will seek to build relationships that connect people with services that can help guide the guests to navigate through the system to move out of homelessness and into regular work and their own homes.

Mr. Fonder noted that in researching the development of The Beacon, he had visited a number of centralized homeless facilities around the country and that he had been particularly impressed with a new facility that has recently been launched in Fort Worth, Texas. He hopes that The Beacon will have much of the impact and success that he witnessed at the Fort Worth facility.

Mr. Fonder emphasized that, among its offerings, The Beacon will provide a dedicated family area, where families will be able to experience privacy and also get help that is specifically targeted to address family issues.

It is expected that the Beacon will serve approximately 150 people each day.

The creation of a full-service day resource center for the homeless and marginalized has been in the minds of civic and social leaders of Madison for 6-10 years, and now the dream is at hand and will be located at The Beacon, 615 East Washington Street, having begun at 8 am Monday, October 16.

Congratulations to all who have been involved in this magnificent effort and good luck to all who will visit and receive hope and direction from The Beacon, the latest example of Madison’s big and warmly beating heart.

--by Michael D. O’Neill, Street Pulse