All summer long we searched for better options, but we found none. So, we’re back at 800 E. Washington, but hopefully have learned from past experiences and remain open to better locations – but there is no doubt, there is a need for somewhere to provide limited shelter, minimal heat and a sense of community.
When I say we, I should clarify. I’ve been attending Occupy Madison Meetings since last April or so and haven’t stopped. I’ve become good friends with many of these folks and I’ve tried to help find solutions, but its not easy. And there isn’t a whole lot of support for doing this kind of work. I personally drove around the city looking at buildings and land with people, trying to find other solutions. We made lists and pros and cons and it all comes down to not finding a place we could get permission to be or money to buy something that has a minimum of electricity, water and ability to put in a portapottie. So, the Dane County campgrounds close today and people have no legal place to go. And we are still looking for answers, but are determined to do it better.
Here is the note I sent to the neighborhood today today based on the meeting last night.
Dear Tenney Lapham Neighborhood Residents -
Last night, Occupy Madison held their regular General Assembly meeting with about 30 people attending and they asked me to send you this email. They would like to meet with the neighborhood to discuss their presence at 800 E. Washington Ave. In short, they are committed to making sure that the problems that occurred last year are not repeated. At last night’s meeting they elected a council and adopted rules to ensure that things remain orderly and they do not have an unconditional open door policy for just anyone to come and join the group.
Several members expressed concerns that things do not get out of control like the end of last year. They are seeking cooperation from the police department to help enforce rules and intend to cooperate with the police and the city. They would like to dialog with the neighborhood about their concerns and come up with some joint solutions to the problems that occurred last year.
They are simply looking for a legal place to sleep for those who do not get into shelters (Men are out of days at shelter, single women have a lottery every day and don’t know which nights they will get a bed and families have a waiting list) or will not go to shelters because they are unsafe, unclean, loud or for other personal reasons. No one thinks this is an ideal situation. A building would be more preferable, but a tent is better than no shelter at all. And a legal place to sleep, free of fear of tickets and where there is some safety in numbers is much more preferable than hiding somewhere so they can get some sleep.
I got a facebook message from someone this morning who stayed at the camp and currently has housing and she had this to say:
The occupy that we had at the campground was a blessing In my life when I needed it the most, it was shelter and the feeling of family when my family wasent there for me. While I was there at occupy I was able to apply for a job be hired on at the job and able to continue to hold down the job, I also had support from other supportive people around me. Occupy isnt about the alcohol or drugs its about working together to help other people make sure that they are safe and healthy and that there basic need are met. I believe that without occupy in my life I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Please allow occupy to stay so that others like myself can make something of themself. Met there basic needs and allow d for them the tools that they need to succeed.. Everyone deserves a safe place to sleep at night
I couldn’t have said it any better.
Please let us know when a good time to meet would be. Currently the plan is for a meeting every night at 5:00 for the first two weeks so that we can make sure that things are getting addressed and they would welcome you at a meeting or arrange another date and time that is more convenient to the neighborhood.
Thank you for your consideration.
Brenda K. Konkel
friend of many of the people with no legal place to sleep at night
p.s. The city has not yet determined what to do with the group. The police have visited but not asked them to leave. They are considering various options and will continue to meet with us as things develop. I can share more with you as more develops.
I spent the night out there Saturday night, but let a homeless person use my tent last night. I have to say, it was a miserable sleeping experience, but I could not have imagined not having a tent to protect me from the wind and possible rain. And I can’t imagine it being any colder.
This is truly about existence, not resistance. No one wants to think about our friends sleeping outside in the cold again this winter, but if they have to, we want them to at least have a tent to protect them from some of the weather and in a place that is safe and free from getting tickets.
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