The Beacon keeps shining through storm, bitter cold | Catholic Charities Diocese of Madison

The Beacon keeps shining through storm, bitter cold

The Beacon

Since its inception, The Beacon has enjoyed strong community support and a network of helpful and engaged partners. This was never more important or evident than during a recent winter storm.

On Jan. 12, a storm dumped more than 12 inches of snow on Madison. When staff members arrived the following morning, they found that the gate to the courtyard couldn’t be opened. Knowing it would impact services at The Beacon if the gate stayed closed, Nici Hawkins, program director of The Beacon, reached out to contacts at the City of Madison and Dane County, who called the Madison Fire Department.

The Madison Fire Department opened the gate and cleared snow from the entrances but dealing with the aftermath of the storm had delayed the shelter’s opening. In the face of extreme weather, Hawkins wanted to ensure guests would be safe and warm as they waited for The Beacon to open.

Porchlight’s overnight men’s shelter stayed open longer than usual to allow guests to stay there until The Beacon could accept them, and Madison Metro held women from the Salvation Army shelter in their buses so they wouldn’t have to stand out in the elements.

When The Beacon was finally able to accept guests, there was another challenge to overcome: understaffing. Illness and the winter storm had left The Beacon very short-handed. Once again, the community stepped up. Employees from the City of Madison answered the call for help and came to The Beacon to lend a hand, helping to serve breakfast, clean the bathrooms, and working in the laundry and shower areas.

Carly Sobye, director of homeless services for Catholic Charities, conveyed her gratitude for the community members and organizations who went above and beyond to help in a situation that required “all hands on deck.”

“Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to be open,” she explained.

The Beacon continues to see record high numbers this winter and recently reached a single-day high of 281 guests during the period of frigid temperatures that followed the January snowstorm. As we continue to serve our most vulnerable neighbors and address the persistent challenge of homelessness, we are bolstered by the support of our community in this work.

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