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Is the Mautz Paint Company Building the answer to homelessness in Madison?

Mautz Paint Building

Inside The Mautz Paint Company Building

By Ronnie Barbett

Thinking to myself in the negative the other day, I thought what’s the use…nobody’s listening. I’m talking with different people with their own agendas. I know I’m not intelligent enough to think I know everything. I’m almost at the point that I really must admit that I really don’t know what’s going on in this city. There are all these people representing all these organizations with one thing in common…providing services to the homeless. I’m convinced that they don’t know that homelessness can be solved. It’s not rocket science but they can’t see the forest for the trees.

I attended the Occupy Madison meeting held at the Madison Tenant Resource Center the other day. All they cared about was centered around the Occupy agenda. A week before that, the Dane County Homeless Issues Committee wrapped up its session on, “addressing the emergency facility needs of the homeless.” Two weeks before that at the local United Way office, a homeless services consortium was held that spotlighted our most prized possession – the youth of Dane County. The future of the county’s youth was brought into focus with a video documentary from the advocacy group Make Room For Youth (MRFY). The confiscation of the possessions of the homeless was also discussed by Police Chief Noble Wray at the consortium. Even the city’s Common Council addressed the homeless issue at their meeting, which involved increasing the number of bus tickets made available to low-income and homeless residents, from 300 tickets to now 450 tickets.

The homeless issues being addressed are going about this concern using a lot of resources, including local and federal funds, as well as private donations coming from everywhere. I just wish that the powers that be would get serious about these issues. Give all who are homeless a space and an effective way to use that space. There would be no homeless. A homeless person needs a place to be to move forward…in a stable living space that serves their needs.

I have a plan for all the powers that be and contributors in Madison to think about. The empty Mautz Paint Company building could be the answer to homelessness in this city. The Mautz building is big enough to house all the organizations that deal with homelessness. There would no longer be a need to travel all over the city. They could process all the homeless during their stay at this complex. The homeless person could get counseling and other inspirational services needed until their house, apartment or room becomes available. The daytime warming shelter managed by Sarah Gillmore could be incorporated into this facility, and every agenda could be considered and addressed inside this ample facility. With all the organizations within this one facility, they could easily be assisting each other to provide the best possible environment for the needs of the homeless.

This huge building and the area surrounding the complex, when fenced off, would be perfect as a day and night shelter, resulting in a 24 hour, 365 day shelter for all the homeless in Madison. This complex could take care of all temporary housing situations since the plan is to put everyone into housing through employment and other means of funding to continuously survive from day to day.
This building has five floors and a roof. Here is one vision of how this building might be set up for the homeless and all the organizations involved.

Basement Area
Lockers and storage
Laundry facilities

1st floor
Welcome desk and information area
Security office
Administration office
Computer resource room

2nd floor
Dining Room/cafeteria
Social service offices (organizations)
Donation acceptance/distribution/storage area
Thrift Store

3rd floor living/sleeping area
Boyfriend/girlfriend, couples
Married without children
Single women

4th floor living/sleeping area
Single men/women with children
Married couples with children
Indoor play area

Roof area (fenced)
Outdoor play area
Exercise area
Smoking area

The old Mautz Paint Company building is the perfect complex and, when fenced off like Breese Stevens Field across the street, provides the out-of-sight, out-of-mind mystique. Imagine…the inside yard with a storage shed for the homeless to lock up their bicycles…the Occupy Madison campsite off to the back side of this complex…and still plenty of room for cars, vans, trucks for storage, and even Winnebago and truck campers for live-in ability until a house or apartment comes along. The huge driveway area is roomy enough for the Second Harvest delivery truck to deliver donated to any one of the many loading docks already in place.

This building is solid in structure would be easily renovated in any way necessary. The huge basement is ideal for storage for storage of belongings, and would be complete with lockers and a laundry room. The first floor would consist of the welcome desk and security office, resource center, administrative offices with a meeting room large enough to hold meetings with the entire homeless services consortium, and even enough space to hold job fairs and housing expos.

The first and second floor could contain the offices necessary for the plan to uplift the homeless to a better way of life. The Veteran’s Administration, the women and children’s organization liaison offices would be there. Representatives from your local churches, local law enforcement, the Madison Tenant Resource Center and other organizations that assist the homeless, as well as the housing attainment organizations. All the major organizations around Madison would have an outreach service outlet located on the premises. Additionally, and this is very important, these service organizations could partner with the shelter itself to operate a thrift store within the building to make the shelter more self supporting. This could even provide an opportunity for some homeless guests to work as volunteers within the store to gain work experience if they need it.

A homeless person or family wanting to stay inside the night shelter would start intake separate from the service organizations. The third and fourth floors are set up for all varieties of homeless desiring a good night’s sleep. An ample number of showers, located on all sleeping area floors, would be supplied with all types of toiletries and hygiene products that are donated and distributed in a room convenient to the bathrooms and showers by volunteers who would also monitor these areas.

The sleeping areas would also hold a living area with with a bed or beds, tables and chairs, clock, mirror, closet, etc. Each floor would have a larger common room for a TV and congregating or just relaxing. The rooms would be measured and constructed or remodeled to suit the number of persons that would inhabit each space. All the work done to these upper floors as living space will take special consideration. One and two bedroom units designed for the temporary stay.

My view of the exact details are not nearly complete but the all the people that share this vision of a better way to house the homeless would have their own ideas to contribute. This idea as I have presented it is wide open to further review, and I am hoping for the best. The sheer size of the Mautz Paint Company building opens the possibilities for all involved to contribute worthy ideas and all and anything could happen there.


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.


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


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