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Kickoff for National Homelessness Awareness Month

On November 2nd, National Homelessness Awareness Month began. At an awareness event in the State Capitol, various speakers addressed the prevalence of homelessness in Wisconsin and the need for government, agencies and individuals to come together to find better solutions. Along with community and statewide school leaders working to end homelessness, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Program Director Priscilla Lentini worked to put on this event.

At the event, a Ribbon Tree visually represented the estimated number of people who experience homelessness in a year. Each ribbon accounted for 1,000 individuals. Here is data on youth and young adults facing homelessness in a year:

Press release

The kickoff event for National Homelessness Awareness Month is at the Wisconsin State Capitol rotunda on November 2, 2022 at 11:30AM. Speakers will range from state representatives addressing the concerns of homelessness in Wisconsin to individuals speaking about their lived experience of homelessness. Through their voices and stories we can learn about ways we can make a difference in our community. This event is an opportunity to build much needed awareness of the homeless crisis in our state and local communities and we hope we can come together to find better solutions.

The November 2 kickoff event at the State Capitol will also feature a Ribbon Tree designed to showcase and measure the different types of homelessness experienced in Wisconsin. 

“Young people often have innovative survival strategies that make many assume that youth homelessness does not exist. This includes sleeping with friends, strangers, engaging in survival sex, or couch-surfing across state lines. Unfortunately, our systems don’t always identify these survival strategies as homelessness,” said Rachel Litchman, member of the Youth Action Board of Dane County, who will be one of the speakers at the Nov. 2 event.

“Housing is a human right, and no person in our state deserves to struggle with the stress of finding affordable housing or experiencing homelessness. We know that safe and secure housing is essential for strong families and strong communities, yet too often are inaccessible,” said Wisconsin State Senator Melissa Agard, who will also be speaking at the event.

According to another scheduled speaker, Michael Basford, Director of the Wisconsin Interagency Council on Homelessness, “Homelessness and housing insecurity happens all over Wisconsin – regardless of area of the state and whether it’s urban, suburban, or rural areas. This is an issue that has always required an all-hands-on-deck response if we’re going to end homelessness as we know it in this state.”

Background, Plans & FAQ

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul — Madison has plans to conduct a building project near the intersection of Williamson Street and S. Baldwin Street in Madison. The zone currently hosts the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store and the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Program office.

Our intent now is to demolish our two structurally comprised buildings along Baldwin Street – as well as our Williamson Street store’s book room, which shares the lot with one of those buildings. We would then erect a two-story building at the Baldwin Williamson corner and a single-story building where our Baldwin store building is now. Except for vestibule, elevator and stairwell space at the corner, our plan is to devote the new first-floor space to retail and the new corner building’s second floor to our charitable programming. That programming would be primarily our St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Program of assistance to custodial single parents of minor children — the non-residential successor to the Seton House Program with its current office in the corner structure being replaced.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions

View the current plans

Brief history

The core mission of the District Council of Madison – Society of St. Vincent de Paul is helping Dane County neighbors in need. A nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the Society has been engaged in that mission in Madison since 1925 and has had a physical locus in the Williamson-Marquette neighborhood since 1941, when SVdP Madison opened a store on Baldwin Street. From that location, St. Vincent de Paul’s retail and service complex grew organically around the Baldwin corner to Williamson Street to become the Society’s local flagship thrift store. The parcel at the corner of Williamson and Baldwin streets has since served as the Society’s busy food pantry and then as the office location of the Seton House women’s transitional housing program – as well the site of the adjoining Willy Street store’s bookroom.

The Williamson-Baldwin corner property and the original Baldwin Street portion of the thrift-store complex have clearly reached their end of life. SVdP Madison has been advised that the corner “Seton 2” building, an old balloon-frame structure, is not sound enough to salvage and remodel. Compromised wooden roof trusses of the Baldwin retail property have led the Society to empty that space and leave it unused for its usual purpose. The century-old concrete structure of the Baldwin store space is of unknown design capacity. After carefully considering options, St. Vincent de Paul is seeking to rebuild in the footprint of these two parcels. New construction designed to sensitively honor the look and feel of the local traditional shopping street and historic district will best serve the interest of safety, modern code compliance, energy efficiency, sustainability, and avoidance of unintended consequences.

These are key objectives for the future of properties SVdP Madison intends to continue using for purposes toward which the site has long been put. Those purposes are supporting and meeting the Society’s mission by selling and giving away donated goods and by offering other charitable services to local households in need. Through new, historically sensitive construction, SVdP Madison’s plan is to devote almost all first-floor space to retail and – for the corner – parcel create second-floor space focused on serving neighbors in need through SVdP Madison charitable programming.