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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Though the expansion of a new Dane County Salvation Army homeless shelter faced some opposition from local residents, their petition to halt the project failed to meet city standards.

Plan to expand Dane County Salvation Army homeless shelter moves forward after petition fails

Petitioners appealing the expansion project of the Dane County Salvation Army homeless shelter on East Washington Avenue may be disappointed to learn they did not meet Madison City Ordinance requirements.

In early November, the Salvation Army proposed creating a new homeless shelter that — in addition to providing transitional rooms — would offer mental health and medical services along with income-based and non-subsidized housing. The $25 million redevelopment package includes the proposed five-story building, as well as a three-story apartment building that comes with a gymnasium, auditorium and a chapel. 

The new facility would also solve the problem of the lack of space at the current building. The Salvation Army has had to turn away people at their two shelters, where many women and children stay, due to limited space. 

Local residents, however, have expressed that a housing expansion is not necessarily the right approach to alleviating security issues in the area. Concerned about noise and crime increasing in the city, several district residents, including those situated in the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, have voiced opposition to the location site of the new shelter. Many believe the project expansion can take place elsewhere.  

Approximately 34 people signed the petition, reasoning that the shelter would pose a threat to the surrounding community, according to the Cap Times. 

Ald. Patrick Heck, District 2, explained that for the appeal to go through, they needed at least 20 percent of eligible property owners who live within 200 feet of the development to sign it, and they didn’t meet that threshold. Since the petition was deemed invalid by the City Attorney’s Office and Planning Division Staff, the Common Council did not take any action on it.

“Even though the appeal did not go through, there are legitimate concerns that the neighbors addressed,” Heck said. 

Meanwhile, some hoped the city would create a plan that would tackle safety issues in the neighborhood.

Speaking to the proposal, Heck understands his constituents’ queries.

“I think primarily it’s been controversial because a fair number of people who live close to the Salvation Army have rightly seen that the Salvation Army has not always been the best neighbor,” he said. “They haven’t managed their security and safety situation as they should, but they’re also up against operating out of a building that was not intended to be a shelter.”

Heck believes with a new Salvation Army facility, the project could potentially solve current safety issues in the area as well.  

“Those people will no longer be in the street in the neighborhood, which I think is a big help,” Heck said. “People prey on the guests of the Salvation Army, and those people are the biggest problem in terms of security.”

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Regardless of the appeal, the City Council approved the proposal on Tuesday, Dec. 3 to allocate some of the money from the Affordable Housing Fund to help pay for the apartment building.

“There’s still another option available to [the petitioners],” Heck said. “They have 30 days in which they can also file a court case to try to overturn the plan,” though that would be a rare move.

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