There’s a small tent city on the North side of Madison, Wisconsin

This is a quote from Heidi Wegleitner over at the post “It was a long day yesterday” on Forward Lookout:
“It continues to amaze me that the county board can pass $600k in funding for a day center without blinking an eye, human services department can intervene to have shelter policies waived to get folks off the hill, but it is essentially impossible to permit camping or occupancy on some county land or in some county structure.”
Note: Heidi has added a comment to this post to offer context.

I want you to know about a small Occupy Madison tent city of 28 or so people at Lake View Hill on the North side of town.

A bureaucracy is saying to this band of individuals who are without homes in Madison that they should do their homelessness the city and the county’s way or go to jail or be bused out or be “involuntarily committed”. (I am oversimplifying a bit on those offered “solutions”, but not much.)

Meanwhile, the professional class of caregivers to the poor [non-profits] have admitted that they have no ability to offer immediate housing to Occupy Madison folks except for the shelters that people have already said time and time again are unsafe or disturbing or bedbug-ridden.

The City of Madison and Dane County is refusing to quit harassing the Occupy Madison individuals that have established an encampment. Threat of eviction and arrest continues – such as the “we’ll issue tickets at 10PM” message that came yesterday. (I’ve heard the hour of 10 o’clock came and went without incident.)

Lastly, $600,000 is going to be given to create a day shelter that will probably be as poorly managed as the current shelters are.

Take a look at the conditions documented at Forward Lookout’s
Why is a Tent in the Cold Better than the Shelter?.

I’m just going to put this out there: even liberal Madison, Wisconsin – especially Madison, Wisconsin – has the power to both care for its fellow man and spend tax dollars wisely.

A few things that can be done:
Follow the Forward Lookout blog. Brenda Konkel has been advocating for solutions and blogging developments there.

For Dane County residents:
Sign a petition –
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Dane County Board Supervisors: Give Occupy a Fire Permit

Paul Soglin and Joe Parisi: Help the Homeless in Madison

A few words on Occupy and “The Storm”
In The Truth about Occupy Sandy, Michael Shatz says, “Those masses of people who came out last year, erecting tents all across the nation, were not simply protesting. They were delivering aid to the victims of the economic storm.”

Michael is talking about respectful mutual aid and not the Paul Ryan trickle-down variety of “charity”.

For most of my life as an American, to be poor is to be suspect and to be “homeless” is be held in subhuman regard. If you have no home, you should be ignored at best and are fair game for predators at worst. This is an open air prison. It’s not like you can’t break out of it with some effort and good fortune but, well, you know how it is. Good luck with that.

I saw no real change in this scheme until Occupy came along. What’s a bit ironic is Occupy itself has said it has no leaders. If we say who in any given Occupy group is taking responsibility for others, as leaders often do, we would see many. It may be that Occupy is just chock full of leaders.

We all noticed that the media was able to “get” what the 99% vs. the 1% was. One of the less pronounced messages Occupy put out there by their actions is that the homeless are real people.

For those of us who never really became strident occupiers, we were grateful for the shift in the culture. If we had individual economic failures we could see them as part of a systemic failure. If our futures were suddenly lost, at least we were not alone in being set adrift. The lost were acknowledged and human and had a “home” with the Occupy movement even if only in each other’s hearts or on our computers.

Right now those without a physical home in Madison have a place with Occupy and housing advocates like Brenda Konkel. This isn’t enough but this is important. This is a start.


5 thoughts on “There’s a small tent city on the North side of Madison, Wisconsin

  1. I think it is worthy of note that people from Occupy Wall Street have provided some of the most timely and effective aid to residents of un- or under-served areas of New York City. It has been a joy to follow their resourceful, practical, compassionate and deeply democratic efforts to stand in solidarity with formerly perfect strangers. This about a lot more than camping.

  2. This article spoke to me on a very personal level. The metaphors in this are both insightful and gave me an “aha” moment. I have been in awe of this movement from the start and how so many from so many different “affiliations” have sort of life rafted together and become more than each of them could be individually. I thank you so much for writing it.

  3. Thanks for the post, but I take issue with one of the conclusions regarding the day center. I expect the temporary day resource center as well as the permanent day resource center to be very well run. This is due to dedicated resources, amazing staff that have been hired to run it (including Sarah Gillmore), and their plans and efforts to provide supportive services and affirm the dignity of the persons using the facility. The $600,000 in capital funding was my amendment and I am very supportive of providing a permanent day resource center. My comment was not intended to denigrate the value of that commitment, but demonstrate that smaller policy changes can be much harder to obtain than substantial financial commitments (even in these tight budget times). The permanent day resource center will go through an RFP process and we will write the criteria for a successful day center model into the RFP.

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