Mission & History


Porchlight strives to reduce homelessness in Dane County by collaborating with the community to provide shelter, affordable housing, and supportive services that eliminate barriers and empower the individuals and families we serve.


Porchlight envisions a community without homelessness.  In keeping with our mission and values, we create innovative solutions, vibrant partnerships, and opportunities for those we serve.


Porchlight fosters an organizational culture that values respect for program participants and our staff, advocacy in the community, accountability, and diversity of persons and thought that encourages self-determination for all whom we serve.


Porchlight’s story began in November 1984, when multiple people experiencing homelessness froze to death on the streets of Madison.  As part of a community effort to provide emergency services to Madison’s homeless population, a shelter was established in the basement of University United Methodist Church, at the intersection of University Avenue and Charter Street.  Despite official statements made on behalf of Madison and Dane County that there was no homelessness in Madison, the emergency shelter served 264 individuals and provided a total of 3,634 nights of shelter from November 1984 through April 1985.  These eye-opening numbers established the need for a long-term emergency shelter, which began operation in the basement of Grace Episcopal Church in December 1985.  The shelter operation officially became Transitional Housing, Inc. (THI) in 1987.

Leaders of this shelter outreach effort recognized early on that emergency shelter was only a temporary solution to homelessness, and that permanent housing with supportive services was a necessary next step.  In 1987, THI rented a duplex from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to house homeless families.  The following year, THI made its first purchase of housing on Broom Street – a house with five bedrooms – which is still housing formerly homeless individuals over 30 years later!

Fifteen years after purchasing that first house, THI had the exciting opportunity to merge with another major homeless services provider, Community Housing and Services, Inc. (CHAS).  Located at 306 N Brooks Street, CHAS had been providing low-income housing and services in its 102 units since the 1990s.  In 2003, THI and CHAS merged to form Porchlight.  Throughout the decades, Porchlight has been committed to creating solutions for people experiencing homelessness in Dane County.

History of Porchlight