No Showers, No Problem
By Ronnie Barbett
The Homeless Issues Committee pointed out at its Tuesday meeting that there would be no showers for the Daytime Warming Center due to the rental lease agreement stating that no alterations to the former Lussier Teen Center building were to be made. Who knew?? No, seriously, who knew? Meeting after meeting was held at the City-County building on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. to decide what’s really needed and what’s best for this Daytime Warming Center. Lots of space, lots of services, a storage area, lockers, and a shower facility was agreed upon. It was sometime in October, and I was at the Occupy Madison tent city site. During our meeting that day, two well-respected people stopped by to say ‘HI’ and informed us that they, too, were going to the meeting. Not only were they known for being advocates for the homeless, but they were on the City Council. They were going to meet the owners of the building that we are now calling the Daytime Warming Shelter. The point is this…if they went inside this building, they had the opportunity to view first hand as to whether or not the building was suitable and capable of having a shower facility. If it was, then the people that sleep outside under the bridges, in front of store doorways, that sleep in their cars and other places like the park area could come to the day center taking showers as planned. Did they already know that showers were a no-go?
The Day Center opened just in time for Thanksgiving, and believe me, the homeless population appreciated all who wanted this to happen. Sarah Gillmore, the director, was its most important asset. I guess having of a shower facility didn’t seem important at the time for its success.
The success of this Daytime Warming Center depended on Sarah’s plan to involve a caring staff, willing homeless volunteers and donations from anyone who had anything the homeless could use. We, the homeless, were blessed. The University of Wisconsin Police Department, The Roman Candle Pizzeria, Ian’s Pizza, the Pro Labore Dei, Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association, Tellurian Counseling Services, First United Methodist Church Food Pantry, The On the Way Home Folks, Sina Davis Outreach Services, Porchlight for computers and many, many wonderful individual volunteers whose name I can’t mention here due to lack of space. Sarah insisted on a homeless, volunteer-run situation and got it. From the start, the center volunteers were Terry, Teresa, Ronnie, James, Nate, Gene, Liz, Christie, Gina, Isaac, and all low-income or homeless persons who were determined to help the center run smoothly.
This project by Sarah Gillmore should come, I hope, with “The Porchlight” stamp of approval since Dane County and the City of Madison powers that be went to them for guidance and suggestions. Did they train Sarah for setting this up? Let me point out that Sarah Gillmore, Nate Abrams, and
Z! Haukeness and the volunteers surrounding Sarah’s ideas make it work.
Now, about those showers… As a volunteer working the front desk am a bit disappointed. I sleep outside and to come inside this place to a shower would have been nice. The Salvation Army and Porchlight Men’s Shelter #1 do have a shower facility for their overnight guests. Another shower support service can be found at the First United Methodist Church, sponsored by Karen Andro’s Outreach Services, which also sponsors the “Come as You Are” ministries. First United is available Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 9:00 AM. Nadia, one of the loyal volunteers there will have soap, towels, razors, shampoo for you to use on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Go to the Beld St. location of the Multicultural Center for their shower facility. If keeping your body clean is of major concern to you, get more info from organizations dealing with homelessness. Or just ask a homeless person!