By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Warming center opens
The Men's Seasonal Warming Center, started by Family Promise of Green County, opened Jan. 4 at 800 30th St. in Monroe. The warming center has six beds and two sleep rooms (below) and a community room. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Monroe has a new place for single homeless men to gain relief from freezing Wisconsin winter nights.

The program began with Family Promise of Green County, but director Rick Gleason hopes the Men's Seasonal Warming Center on 30th Street will be able to function on its own by next winter. The building provides a place for single homeless men to sleep indoors and to make their own food with the aid of a sink, a refrigerator and a microwave.

The warming center opened Jan. 4 and organizers are still working on renovations. So far, they have done plenty of painting and are in the process of hooking up the kitchen sink. Local television through the use of a donated converter box was set up Monday morning.

"It's not the Hilton," Gleason said. "But it serves a need. We're not calling it a shelter, because shelter implies somebody moves in and they live here for a period of time. We are a men's seasonal warming center."

The facility is open from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. During that time, men can stay overnight. Throughout the day, they return to the community to work on previously identified goals. The center will function as such until April 30. Two rooms with three beds each have been set up to take in people who need the space. Two additional beds will be put in place for emergency admittance for short-term stays not in line with the case management program. Volunteer staff stay overnight as well.

The objective of the program is to provide a place for single men who are unable to afford housing because they have either lost work, or are working but unable to afford housing because of other financial obligations. Those who take part in the program are given goals to find housing, employment or to better structure their living in some way.

The program allows visitors to stay for a maximum of 90 days, but Gleason said it is not a guaranteed stay: If men using the program do not show progress while others are in need of a place to stay, they may not be allowed for longer than a month. Local resources are made available to assist with employment or housing searches, and participants are offered weekly case management.

Gleason said the program was developed due to a lack of facilities for single men in Green County. Calls from Monroe Clinic and other health services quickly made the absence glaringly apparent when there was no place to send homeless males who had been treated with no place to go afterward.

"One of the first things I realized was there were no services available as far as shelter type things for single homeless men," Gleason said. "You go to Dane County in October, you're lucky to get a place by spring. By referring them to a neighboring county, I felt like what we were telling them was ... if you quit being responsible, quit your job, quit taking care of your children and go to Rock or Dane County, we'll give you a bed to sleep in. That's no solution to anything."

Planning began with ideas last February. Family Promise set up an advisory board of six people who represent various pieces of the community, such as St. Vincent de Paul, Family Promise and church congregations in the area. In November, organizers acquired the building. Then the work began to create separated spaces and bring in furnishings.

The communal situation has also been set up with rules, such as a zero tolerance policy for alcohol and drugs and to check for people with violent backgrounds or outstanding warrants and other legal troubles to keep the program secure.

"We know that we're going to have people who are vulnerable coming into a program like this," Gleason said. "Putting people in a communal situation like this, we have

to do everything we can to ensure the safety of the participants."

With four months left in the first phase of operation, Gleason said they are hopeful the program can help. One person who has used the facility already found his way back to secure housing.

Organizers want to spread awareness of the new program to make sure people who need help are directed toward the center. Word has begun to circulate; four people have already been referred to the warming center since Friday afternoon.