The Haters are Getting Aggressive

Posted January 11th, 2013 @ 8:41 AM by

I’m used to haters, my email is full of examples of it (mostly from when I was an elected official), but it irks the hell out of me when it gets directed towards other people and it professes such ignorance. Check out the latest flyer circulating in the East High area against the homeless who are looking for a place to live. Saturday’s meeting could be interesting.

There are several things about this flyer and the project to realize:

Anonymous person wrote the flyer, not James Reeb Congregation
The person circulating this flyer did not tell us who they are. Some people misread it to be supported by the James Reeb congregation – I can’t imagine that being true given what I know about the trainings and meetings I have attended with members of their congregation. Their name is on the flyer only because that is the place Alder Rhodes-Conway and Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner are having a meeting like they would for any other development project, the congregation was gracious enough to let them use their space, that is all. I suspect they will be concerned that a flyer like this is circulating in their area and horrified that anyone would think they are supporting what is written on it.

Fear of violence against unhoused persons, from the housed persons
Camping at Lake View Hill was a disturbing experience and it was the first time that I felt fear that the neighbors would be violent towards the unhoused community that gathered. It was also the first time I saw that level of fear in the eyes of my friends camping there – which is why I camped there in solidarity with them – they asked me to because they were afraid. Additionally, we were warned repeatedly that one particular hater carries guns and had a house full of guns. We also had to deal with neighbors yelling at us and stealing our signs and the neighbor eventually got ticketed, after threatening to get the CC Riders to take care of people camping. Of course, the CC Riders were displeased their name was being used in that manner. Even when the Mayor heard about our project on Fordem, he even asked that I let police know so that they could talk with one of the neighbors in particular. That is not something I expected to have to deal with from the neighbors and now I mostly don’t know what to expect from a city that once had a very different opinion of – I want to believe that this person is an outlier and that this neighborhood I once represented hasn’t changed that much – but I didn’t expect the hatred from the northside neighbors either.

It’s ok to have questions and concerns
We recently met with DAIS and Center for Families and they asked us tough and good questions and in the end, I believe our proposal will be better because of their concerns. I look forward to further feedback and assistance from them to make sure that our neighbors are treated with the same care and respect we expect to be treated with. The project is still in the EARLY phases and we are still working things out and we see these meetings as opportunities to strengthen what we are doing and seek advice from the community about what they would like to see from us. If possible, we would like to make this a place for community and be an asset to the neighborhood. I hope people with questions and concerns do not get lumped in with this hater and feel comfortable asking questions. We will answer them the best that we can. It is only natural to have questions and concerns since we haven’t had time to make the presentations to the community since the project isn’t complete enough to do so.

DAIS and Center for Families shouldn’t be pawns for the haters
Just to hammer this home, after talking with the staff from DAIS and Center for Families, I don’t think they would enjoy being used as pawns for the haters. They have their own concerns, but I don’t think the concerns are anything like the writer of this flyer and probably would have their own concerns about the inaccuracies portrayed about homeless persons, because after all, they serve these clients too.

Soglin’s rhetoric
I am so saddened that the lies that Soglin was saying about Occupy and the homeless community are repeated here. The mayor has come a long way, but it looks like the longer term damage has been done. I was so mad at the mayor at the time because people repeat things like the alleged and never proven “hazardous waste site” and he allows people to just ignore homelessness and promotes racism when he dismisses it as being people from Chicago and Milwaukee. That simply isn’t the case for many, many homeless who are actually from right here in Madison. Those soundbites ignore a much larger, much more diverse population of people without homes. I believe the mayor realizes this now, but the damage is done.

Some other important facts
People have been asking us lots of questions, so perhaps these facts will help a little bit to clear things up.
– This is housing for 20 – 25 people and some yet to be defined office and community space.
– The housing is not a night shelter, it is permanent housing, hopefully designed so that people can get on their feet and within months for some or maybe a few years for others, move on to traditional housing after showing a track record of living in housing.
– This is a co-op. The housing is intended to be run as a co-op.
– This is not the day center, we are not expecting 125 people a day to be in and out of this building on a daily basis. It is housing for 20 – 25 people.
– Since East Washington closed, people have been camping in the campgrounds all summer long, with the families that were camping there as well and there were no issues brought to our attention with the families with kids except one incident of swearing loudly.
– From May – October, I think there was one fight and two domestic incidents that led the police to be called that were related to people camping with us.
– Since November (through January), when people camped at E. Washington, Lake View Hill and now Token Creek I think there have been less than 5 police calls (2 of which were when the parks department ticketed us and when they forcibly removed us from the hill), but I need to double check as I have been less connected and its all starting to blur together but some of those calls were for assistance.
– None of the police calls with this group in the last 9 months were for drug trafficking as the flyer suggests.
– In the past nine months there has been no issues with the public health department about health and safety issues of the people camping. Tho I think there should be since there is no water at Token Creek and that is one of the requirements for campground licenses.
– OM House is an idea from working on the MUM (Madison Urban Ministry) report delivered to the county in July. We are responding to a collaborative report that includes the voices of faith communities, government, police, community members, non-profits, and the homeless.

I don’t know if that is helpful, but I hope so. If you have concerns and questions, keep asking. Challenge us, help us make our project better – our community does that all the time with projects and we want your input into ours. (Tho I would have liked more time for us to get our act together so we can better answer questions for you.) Anyways, thanks! Lets show that Madison does not reflect the hatred and racism in the above flyer, but is the awesome community that I see every day from individuals that work hard to make Madison a great place for all.

More information on the project at OMhouse.org and we will be adding more information as we can.


Categories: | Dane | Madison | Media

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