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Hope Shines at The Beacon

Kelly Salance

In Dane County, Wisconsin there are over 2,400 people currently experiencing homelessness and an estimated 33% of those are families. While there are many overnight shelters, other supportive resources are often lacking making it nearly impossible to transition out of homelessness. This is until The Beacon opened its doors to the community.


Celebrating its one-year anniversary this month, The Beacon is a daytime resource center, open 365 days of the year from 8am to 5pm located just blocks from the Capitol Square in downtown Madison. The center operates around the idea of ‘many needs met under one roof’ and offers a variety of services to the over 235 men, women, and children who come their doors every day. Along with basic needs services, The Beacon offers showers, laundry, restrooms, a kitchen, a P.O.Box where people can get mail delivered to, lockers, a computer lab, mental health clinic, and a family space. “An essential part of our model is the fact that our guests don’t have to find transportation and visit several locations to get the critical help they need,” said Tami Fleming, The Beacon’s Volunteer Coordinator.

In the year since The Beacon opened, over 7,000 people have visited the day center to access its resources. With a lean staff of seven people, Fleming stresses the importance of volunteers in running their day to day operations.  She adds, “You don’t have to be a social worker to make a difference.” You just have to join her 90 min volunteer orientation where Fleming trains volunteers to treat people in a very practical and empathetic way. Volunteers discuss different situations Fleming has encountered over the last 8 years working in homeless outreach. She encourages volunteers to empathize the with stress, trauma and exhaustion that people are experiencing and bring that understand to their volunteering.

As homelessness continues to rise in Madison, innovative and inclusive resources like The Beacon are essential to addressing the problem. We must all come together, treating each other with empathy and dignity to make Madison a place where all people have a place to call home. To volunteer at The Beacon, join their drop-in volunteer orientation or reach out to Tami Fleming (