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Monday, January 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 16.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Salvation Army of Dane County to change admission policy for Warming House
Madison family shelter has been too popular, leading to problems

The Salvation Army is changing its policy for Warming House, a last resort overnight shelter for families, to no longer accept drop ins.

The shelter, located on 630 E. Washington Ave., though accessed from East Mifflin Street, is for families who can't get space at the Salvation Army's regular family shelter, which has about 90 beds. There is space for about 14-16 people at Warming House, says Major Paul Moore.

"It's a last resource shelter, just mats on a floor basically, with very little privacy," Moore says. But the shelter's first-come-first-serve policy has lead to problems.

The shelter has been in such high demand -- with families often lining up outside beginning at noon -- that the Salvation Army is going to change it's policy, requiring families to call to make a reservation ahead of time, Moore says.

"We've had fights break out, some really ugly situations happen because people were running for the door, kids were getting knocked over," Moore says. "The number of people looking for help is way more than the supply. It's just an ugly. We're trying to take some of the pressure off."

The policy change will start Sept. 7, though, Moore says the details of how the new admission procedure will work have not yet been determined. The emergency shelter has been in great demand ever since it opened in 2008. "Historically, the most we've turned away in one day was almost 40," Moore says.

Moore admits many clients are unhappy about the change. Families who frequently used the shelter are being notified about the change.

"We've have people complaining every day. They sometimes get boisterous and emotional. We understand, but it makes it tough on the staff," he says. "It's just really been a tough, tough thing to do. It's hard to turn away families. And many times they have no idea what they're going to do."

Note: This story originally reported that there is space for 15 families at the Warming House, but has been corrected to note that there is room for 14-16 individuals.

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