Salvation Army Homeless Shelter May Move From Downtown

Sale of E. Washington Ave location pondered to fund Darbo Campus expansion

Image courtesy: Google

The Salvation Army has announced that it proposes to move it’s shelter at 635 East Washington Avenue including medical and dental services to their Darbo Campus location. The shelter houses approximately 18 families and also contains a single women’s shelter that holds 30 residents per night.

The Salvation Army, along with District 6 Alder Marsha Rummel and District 12 Alder Larry Palm, is hosting a neighborhood meeting Wednesday June 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Salvation Army Basement Annex, 3030 Darbo Drive to present their proposal to the public including preliminary architectural drawings and site plans and to receive public comment and questions.

The Darbo Campus at 3030 Darbo Drive is one of several Salvation Army facilities in Dane county and offers various services to the community, most recently an eight-week summer program for at-risk youth in grades K through 5 which started Monday (June 24). The Salvation Army announced the program would be run by their community center that is housed at the campus and run by a new director, Will Green who also founded a neighborhood youth outreach program called Mentoring Positives.

But there are concerns by Darbo-Worthington residents that a shelter would negatively impact an already fragile area that is largely home to low income families. The Darbo-Worthington neighborhood is small area sandwiched between Starkweather Creek, East Washington Avenue, Highway 30 and Milwaukee Street.

Once part of the larger Schenk Atwood Starkweather Yahara neighborhood, Darbo-Worthington has been slowly trying to create its own identity according to Aflonso Flores, a neighborhood activist who recently returned to the area after living in Pennsylvania.

“We don’t have a stable economic base, we have a lot of lower income struggling families already,” Flores said to Willy Street Blog in a recent interview. “Traditionally we have a community that doesn’t talk back a lot…that isn’t tied together.”

The proposed site plan for the upgraded Salvation Army Darbo Campus.

The proposed site plan for the upgraded Salvation Army Darbo Campus.

According to Flores, when Major Loren Carter of the Salvation Army spoke to the Worthington Park Neighborhood Association (WPNA) in February, they were considering selling their downtown shelter due to a potentially lucrative asking price the property would bring.

The organization would then fold money from the sale and additional fundraising into an expansion at their Darbo location.

The Salvation Army at that location owns approximately two blocks from Clyde Gallagher Drive to Rosemary Avenue and Flores says they intend to build new facilities at the location. But the concern lies in the transition plan and the long term benefits and impact the move will have on the neighborhood.

Flores says Carter told the WPNA they don’t plan to expand their homeless services but that they will modify their current building to house the residents while the new facilities are being built. Flores says that’s still 120 beds including the single women’s shelter residents who Carter said would sleep in the gymnasium. Flores wonders whether the Salvation Army is equipped to handle this influx of new people when they have had three directors of their community center in the past year.

The Darbo neighborhood has seen this kind of thing imposed on them before. In January of this year Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin was all set to move into property that currently holds the now abandoned McDonald’s restaurant and when it was presented to the neighborhood its was rejected for many of the same reasons there may be opposition now to the shelter move.

“I talked to Casey Behrend [Exective Director of Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin] and asked him, ‘What are you really bringing into the community?” Flores said. “What are you going to do for the neighborhood, what kind of component are you going to have that will benefit the community. What is the longterm for the community? Are you going to help it? Are you going to improve that community with your presence?”

Part of the concern is whether this move is best for the homeless of Madison or for the bottom line of the Salvation Army. While the services the organization offers are key for the homeless population, the current location seems much better suited to serve where the largest share of the population lives.

Alfonso Flores says currently families are limited to six months in the shelter and many of their children attend nearby Lapham Elementary school and have established ties to the neighborhood. He adds that the current shelter location is also close to many other city services that the homeless need and moving them further out may solve some problems and create others.

“What the city needs to understand…this takes a lot of time…there isn’t going to be an overnight fix for Darb, Flores said. “There could very well be overnight damage if something like the Salvation Army proposal goes through and install a homeless campus there without anything to balance it out. Without any professionally manage commercial entitiy there…or without the Salvation Army offering up any transitional component.”

Calls and/or emails for comment from the Salvation Army’s Major Loren Carter as well as Alder and Larry Palm were not returned. WSB also contacted Marsha Rummel but scheduling prevented her from making a comment by press time.

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