Yahara House is located on East Gorham Street in the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood.
The members of Yahara House, a clubhouse that helps adults cope with mental illness, have a saying: "Nothing about us, without us."
So when they learned this week that the bus stop in front of their clubhouse, located at 802 E. Gorham St., is going to be removed Sunday, Aug. 24, many of them were upset.
"They're an empowered group of folks, and they're not happy to have this handed down without any input from them," says Elizabeth Shah, a spokesperson for Journey Mental Health, which operates Yahara House. "People with mental health issues don't always get much input."
Chuck Kamp, general manager at Madison Metro, could not be reached for comment on Thursday. According to a notice from Metro, the change is being done because frequent pick-ups and drop-offs along Gorham Street are causing delays.
The nearest bus stop to this one is about two blocks away, but using it will require people going to and from the center to walk up and down a steep incline. Some people who use the center have mobility issues, Shah says, which could make that difficult.
Gail Marker, the manager of Yahara House, fears that it's one more barrier facing those who already have more than their fair share of struggles. "If they have to walk up and down this hill in the wintertime, we think some people won't be able to come."
Marker, who is 67, often walks the hill herself in the winter. And while the sidewalk in front of Yahara is always cleared, Marker notes that neighbors sometimes aren't as diligent about shoveling.
"People who have depression will say, 'I can't do it,'" she says. "This bus stop is critical for why we moved here."
Yahara House was formed in the 1970s and moved to East Gorham Street in 1992. It's part of the Clubhouse International network, which is designed to empower those suffering from mental illness to find independence and have a say in their own lives.
"People come and go as they like and that's why this bus stop is important," Marker says.
Marker says members of Yahara were alarmed that the decision seemed to come from above, without consulting them. Says Marker: "People shouldn't make decisions without them."
Ald. Ledell Zellers, who represents the neighborhood, was upset to learn the members of Yahara House felt excluded. Although she notified the neighborhood groups and posted information about the proposal online, she adds, "I do realize that people have lives and it's hard for any of us to keep on top of everything going on."
Zellers has asked Metro to start posting notices at bus stops, whenever there is a proposal to have them moved, to better inform those who actually use the stop. She's also arranged a meeting with Metro staff and Yahara House Friday morning at 9 a.m., to talk about the proposal.
Marker is grateful that Zellers and Kamp have agreed to meet with Yahara House. "It makes me hopeful that people care about what you think," she says. "We're hoping that they'll take this as an opportunity to say, 'We get it, we're not going to remove the stop.'"
But Marker also adds that Yahara House cannot negotiate on this point: "This cannot happen."