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The Quiet before the Storm

The Quiet before the Storm

By Ronnie Barbett

Is everybody happy now? Do you miss the entertainment, the excitement, the stupidity of life that is visible everyday around the square 24-7? I’m sure that there are a few incidents still going on. However, as a homeless person no longer hanging around State Street, the Capitol Square, the State Capitol, James Madison Park and Brittingham Park areas…can somebody tell what is it like now?

Do you think the absence of the homeless crowds is due to the winter weather? By now, I’m sure you know that it’s not. You’ve heard of the success of the Day Warming Shelter. The place is home to those once considered undesirable in certain areas of the city. Homeless individuals at the shelter, run by Sarah Gillmore, represent the suburbs, the East Side, West Side, the South Side and yes, even the North Side of Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a service center run by volunteers, fueled by city-wide donations of everything one can imagine useful to homeless living. We appreciate the outpouring of everyone’s generosity. We are, it seems, being viewed by organizations from every aspect of social concerns. They come with advice. They come just to see the facility or to see what they can offer.

When this situation is over, we hope to come out smelling like a rose. We’re realistic. If we make this work, it will be by the grace of God. This place is a blessing. We want to thank our neighbors (The Rainbow Project), and the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association for putting up with us so far as we struggle with ourselves. People are getting jobs, housing, counseling, clothing, and stuff. This whole day center situation is a test. Sarah and her crew are determined not to fail. We now know most of the people here. We are ready to admit to ourselves that our hands are filled. It’s tough. You try having one hundred or more people at your party…How do you get them all to behave themselves and without tearing the place apart?

This part of my writing brings me back to those places where the homeless congregated now appreciate the quiet calm before the storm. This center is due to close. It is a fact. The Daytime Warming Shelter closes its doors sometime before April Fool’s Day. I thought that it would be interesting for you to know… especially since the powers that be are about to decide funding towards a permanent Day Center. Whether or not to have one, where to have one, what building will have us, what neighborhood is useful and willing to put up with us, who will run it, how much money, and just as important, why do it all? Meetings after meetings…hopefully Mike Basford and his gang at the homeless issue committee will continue to represent the people they care about. Everyone should get involved, even the police. I’m hoping the police department statistics will support our cause. If there were less disturbances in those city-wide area I mentioned when it was because most of the so-called trouble makers were inside of Sarah’s house at 827 E. Washington Ave.

Can you imagine what will happen when we are evicted? Will the city believe that it is warm enough during April to leave us outside? Will everything be alright? Will it be quiet before the storm?


About Operation Welcome Home

OWH is a group of homeless people in Madison, WI and their allies organizing around the root causes of homelessness- racism, poverty, and criminalization. We are fighting for housing, jobs, and an end to the criminalization of poverty.


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(608) 371-WARM
Note: You must dial '608' first.


8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
(7 days a week, until March 31st)


827 East Washington Ave.
Madison, WI 53703
(former Lussier Teen Center)


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