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The Beacon

The Beacon, a homeless day resource center, opened Oct. 16 in the former Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce Building at 615 E. Washington Ave.

Additional funding for bus passes could help those utilizing services at The Beacon, a recently opened homeless day resource center on Madison’s east side.

Dane County’s Health & Human Needs Committee approved at its Nov. 1 meeting a $40,500 budget amendment that would go toward purchasing bus passes for clients of the Beacon.

Transportation can be a barrier for homeless individuals who need to access resources located across the city, the amendment’s sponsor Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, District 2, said.

“It’s a more targeted effort to provide better access to transit to folks who need it most,” Wegleitner said.

The day center opened Oct. 16 in the former Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce Building, 615 E. Washington Ave., and was billed as a “game changer” to reduce homelessness.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi included $175,000 in his proposed 2018 budget for the center. The United Way of Dane County plans to contribute $100,000, pending approval from its board, and Catholic Charities also plans to commit $175,000.

The Madison Finance Committee recently approved an additional $40,000 for The Beacon, bringing the city’s total contribution to $150,000 to support the center’s $688,000 annual budget.

Wegleitner said the bus pass funding would be especially helpful for families to access additional services throughout the city.

“This enables those families to access some bus tickets to get to other places like the family resource center operating out of the East Madison Community Center that will have a bit more space and additional programming directed toward families with young children,” Wegleitner said.

The committee also approved a $25,000 amendment to support the Today Not Tomorrow Family Resource Center, which is located at the East Madison Community Center. The center is a partnership of African American Breastfeeding Alliance, Harambee Village ‐ Doula Services, Integrated Wellness Neighborhood Connectors and Project Babies.

The family resource center provides a variety of support services geared toward children and families and provide basic needs such as diapers, blankets and bottles.

Other approved operating budget amendments include:

  • $25,000 for the Catholic Multicultural Center to provide immigration legal services and social services that would address the growing needs of immigrants in Dane County. The funding would support a bilingual program assistant, contracting contracting for interpreter services for non-Spanish speaking immigrant and refugees clients, scholarship money, and workshops and educational sessions.
  • $114,000 for Neighborhood Navigators in the Leopold and Sun Prairie Early Childhood Zones and shared mental health assessments and interventions
  • $35,000 for a request for proposals for sexual assault prevention programming for middle and high school students

The committee rejected an $8 million capital budget amendment, also sponsored by Wegleitner, for the planning and development of one or more community-based crisis resource centers focused on supporting and diverting people struggling with mental health challenges from the criminal justice system.

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“It’s a really big deal, and it should have at least the same level of priority and funding that was allocated for the jail project,” Wegleitner said.

Parisi included the funding in his proposed 2018 budget for the first phase of a jail renovation project that would consolidate the county’s three jail facilities under one roof.

The county executive also included $100,000 for a mental health feasibility study, which is meant to review existing mental health services in the community. A Health & Human Needs Committee amendment adds an additional $50,000 to include a racial equity analysis in the study.

Earlier this week, the Public Protection & Judiciary Committee set a Sept. 1, 2018 for the study to be completed, specified the review include public and private services and directed study results used for development of a mental health crisis alternative to jail.

“The mental health community work groups made it clear that its top priorities included developing a crisis center alternative to jail,” Sup. Carousel Bayrd, District 8, said in a statement. “The County Board has been working on this for several years and it’s past time to finally move this forward.”

The Personnel & Finance Committee will make decisions on the Public Protection & Judiciary and Health & Human Needs committees’ recommended budget amendments at a meeting Wednesday.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.