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Wisconsin Architects Foundation
Madison's Working Homeless Shelter

Architects and allied design and construction industry leaders put their talents and skills to good use by developing creative solutions to address the need for affordable housing.

The 1997 "Working Homeless Shelter" initiative resulted in the purchase and renovation of a two-story house with three apartments in the town of Madison. The Working Homeless Shelter initiative offers eligible families and individuals affordable transitional housing while they get back on their feet.

The property is now owned by Porchlight, Inc., an agency specially qualified to manage the facility. Volunteers and donations--both financial and in-kind gifts--have been contributed for this worthwhile project.

The Need

Madison has been recognized as a great community in which to live and raise a family. Unfortunately, as a result of the combination of the high cost of housing, welfare reform and other factors, there is a growing part of the community working at minimum-wage jobs who have become homeless because they cannot afford adequate shelter for themselves and their families.

The need is for affordable shelter for the working homeless. Wisconsin's design and construction industry is uniquely positioned to address this critical community issue.

AIA Wisconsin, the state society of The American Institute of Architects, believed that architects and allied design and construction industry leaders can put their talents and skills to good use by developing creative solutions to this problem.

The "Working Homeless Shelter" initiative had several goals:

  • Demonstrate how architects and allied professionals can take a leadership role in addressing a critical community issue.
  • Transform a currently underutilized property into a valuable asset for the community.


A Steering Committee, made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and expertise, was established in 1997 to help guide the initiative. AIA Wisconsin has partnered with Transitional Housing Inc. on this important project in Madison.

Transitional Housing Inc. is a not-for-profit volunteer-intensive agency that provides emergency shelter, food, employment services and affordable housing to the less fortunate in the Madison community. Transitional Housing Inc. will own and manage the facility.

The Action Plan

With the help of M&I Madison Bank, low cost financing was arranged for the purchase and renovation of a two-story house with three apartments in the town of Madison. AIA Wisconsin members have prepared measured drawings of the house and participated in a "design charette" to develop plans for a three-bedroom apartment on the first floor, a one-bedroom apartment on the second and a garden-level efficiency apartment.

A fund-raising campaign was initiated, seeking the commitment from architects and allied design and construction industry professionals. The estimated total cost for the project is $125,000, including the $70,000 purchase price.

The response to the Working Homeless Shelter project has been very positive. Many have contributed their time, expertise and financial support for this worthwhile project.

The Reward

With your help and the support of other community leaders, the Working Homeless Shelter initiative will offer eligible families and individuals affordable transitional housing while they get back on their feet. Many have made a difference by offering a helping hand, not a handout.

The neighborhood benefits as well. A once run-down underutilized property has been transformed into a valuable asset for the neighborhood.

Each tenant family will be assigned a case manager by Transitional Housing Inc., who will assist the tenant families in dealing with personal/family issues and developing an achievement plan as well as providing the necessary counseling to continue a successful transition to traditional housing.

The Volunteers

Volunteers and donations —both financial and in-kind gifts— have been sought for this worthwhile project.

To kick off the renovation and remodeling of the Working Homeless Shelter, a special "Wall Bashing" event brought volunteers, political figures and organizers together on March 26, 1999.

Workdays were held throughout the summer and autumn.

A Ribbon Cutting ceremony celebrated the shelter's completion.

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