Shortage of space, people to help homeless in Madison - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Shortage of space, people to help homeless in Madison

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Since our recent cool down, organizations providing help to the homeless have been swamped.

Shelters are at capacity and the newest place to go in Madison has been trying to keep up with demand.

The Beacon has been open two weeks. There has been in a new surge of people looking for help in this cold weather. Volunteer coordinator Tami Fleming says she's still struggling to find enough people to fill 20 shifts a day to keep the resource center running. She says volunteers are key to an operation like this. 

"People feel comforted to see smiling faces you know people are welcome here and that's all a part of the staff and volunteers that have chosen to step up," said Fleming.

One of those volunteers is Suzanne Matthews. She says her front desk job at The Beacon is a perfect fit for her and she's already started building relationships with the people she serves.

"I think it makes it easier to get to know a person and know what they really need and they are really trusting and accepting and trust is a really big thing," Matthews told 27 News.

Once the Beacon closes for the day, challenges for homeless services continue at the shelters. Salvation Army's Social Services Director Melissa Sorensen says one year ago, the organization changed its policies to try to help more people. She says the need continues to grow in our community.

"On a given night we were denying close to 70 people from our emergency [family] shelter and realized that the big need was emergency services," Sorensen said.

Now, the family shelter has more beds and Salvation Army is on track to help nearly three times as many people this year as last, but it's still at capacity every night and families are sometimes being turned away. The women's shelter has a larger capacity this year too and women have not been turned away for capacity reasons since. 

Sorensen says the opening of the Beacon has provided a much-needed place for families to go after the shelter closes in the morning. 

Click here if you'd like to learn more about volunteering opportunities at The Beacon and visit Salvation Army of Dane County's website for information on how you can help that organization serve people in need. 

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