This winter may seem mild, but Madison’s homeless residents feel it when the temperature drops.
“When you’re outside, it’s cold. Cold is cold,” said Pamela Brunk, evening supervisor at the Single Women’s Shelter.
The playground and small community garden rest dormant and untouched outside the building, but the Salvation Army facility opens wide its doors on the coldest nights.
When the temperature drops below 21 degrees the shelter takes everyone in, even beyond the 30 bed capacity.
“If I have to have people sit in the reception area, if I don’t have beds, I’ll try and do that just to get them out of the cold,” said Brunk.
Brunk conducts intakes of clients at the shelter and serves as a problem-solver in the evenings. She has a large, generous smile and a small nose ring. Her counseling background serves her well in mediating disputes and addressing the needs of clients.
The shelter, located on the 600 block of East Washington, remains the only shelter for single women in Dane County. Brunk explained that single women have little access to housing support and health care.
The shelter is drop-in only. That means that women can arrive at the shelter at 5pm, sleep on a mattress in the facilities’ gym, and leave by 8am. Guests receive dinner and breakfast for each overnight visit.
During the day women can take shuttles to Porchlight’s Hospitality House to stay warm and access other resources during the winter.
According to Brunk, the shelters and service centers experience more traffic in the summer.
“Summer is our busier time of year,” said Brunk. “I think people are more mobile in the summer.”
But with the recent closing of the central library for renovation and restricted access to the capitol, homeless women and men gather at the shelters on winter nights of all temperatures.