Designed for Success

Earlier this week, I attended a Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association meeting during which a draft Homeless Day Resource Center concept paper, that was developed through a collaborative effort of the City of Madison, Dane County and United Way of Dane County, was presented by City and County staff as well as a representative from Dorschner Associates, the firm which whom Dane County has contracted to do the architecture and design work to transform the old Messner building into the the new Day Resource Center. Many interested neighbors attended, along with advocates for the homeless, potential service providers, and some people who are homeless.

When the concept paper is finalized, it will serve as the guiding document for the Request for Proposals to solicit an operator for the resource center. But, before the concept paper was discussed, the Dorchner representative presented the design for the completely reconfigured building.

It is important to keep in mind, that the old Messner property has been an eyesore for a long time. This is what it looks like now.

The new design will restore the original brick exterior of the original Coca-Cola bottling plant that the building was designed for and remove the front and sides so the set back from the sidewalk is restored to 15 feet and there is space to create a garden and an enclosed children’s play area.

As I had hoped, the new design will transform the current eyesore into a welcome addition to our neighborhood. The interior design transforms what is now a big empty space into a multi-function area that should be well suited to providing many basic needs to people who are homeless in our community. I commend Dorschner Associates for their design work.

While there are many steps that still need to be taken, including finding a qualified operator, the concept paper sets out a fairly good initial framework for a successful resource center that could become a national model for a homeless day resource center.

The concept paper proposes that initially, the day resource center will have the following services:

  • Case management to help with assessment, planning and access to critical resources;
  • Computer Lab to conduct housing and employment searches;
  • Coordinated intake to conduct housing assessments and connect individuals and families with shelter, housing, eviction prevention and rental assistance;
  • Housing Navigator to assist with housing searches, applications and addressing barriers to housing;
  • Private Partner Offices where individuals and families can confidentially connect with community resources;
  • Day rooms to provide refuge from the elements;
  • Kitchenette to prepare snacks and light meals;
  • Laundry;
  • Mail/message center so people without a fixed address can receive mail and messages;
  • Outdoor space including an outdoor playground for children and a separate outdoor space for adults;
  • Showers;
  • Day storage;
  • Telephone Access; and
  • Van transportation.

It is envisioned that as the provider builds organizational and financial capacity, the following services could be added:

  • Benefits counseling;
  • Haircuts;
  • Medical services;
  • Mental Health assessments;
  • Legal Services; and
  • Alcohol and other drug addiction (AODA) services.

The concept papers also calls for a security plan to be developed for both those who use the resource center and its neighbors, as well as ongoing community engagement.

Of course, the concept paper is still in the draft stage and some improvements should be made, including making clear the maximum capacity that the center can serve at any one time, and a clear identification of how the resource center fits into the city and county’s overall plan to address and reduce homelessness.

Overall, I believe the City and County, with the assistance of United Way, are doing a good job in moving this critical project forward by designing it for success. If an operator is found, and the county and city give the necessary approvals, the day resource center should be ready to use by the end of 2017. While it has been needed for years, the time taken to develop it wisely will pay off when it opens and serves those who desperately need it.


For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.

Categories homelessnessTags

1 thought on “Designed for Success

  1. This sounds very promising, Jeff. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your continued support of this project.

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