Last night at the Public Safety Review Board a police officer suggested that one of the things that the alders could do to help with the issue of people with criminal intent (not homeless) hanging out at the top of State St. was to support a loitering ordinance made wanna do a Sue Bauman eye roll. Been here, done this. But it elicited an interesting set of comments on my facebook page.
A person commented as follows:
I think in some cases it is warranted especially for the guy that has taken over the bench in front of the firstbank building on the square. .today he hung up his laundry and I cant even enjoy sitting in front of my own job.I think this is inappropriate and wish you could do something about that. ..
Yes, my brain melted down on that one. My first response was defensive.
Um, we have been trying to push the shelters so people can go there, have been pushing for affordable housing, have been pushing for a permanent day center, for lockers, for restrooms for showers and so much more . . . .if you want to sit outside your job, call your elected officials and ask them when they will provide what the community needs. A loitering law will not help if there is no where to go. A ticket you can’t pay moves people backwards not forwards. We need more services and facilities. We don’t need to criminalize homelessness further.
The person responded with this:
So do you condone this inappropriate behavior in front of a business and the fact that a taxpaying citizen like myself has to be subjected to this everyday? Brenda Konkel im sure there has to be a better way cause such a display is not effective nor appreciated
I’m not sure if she thinks I am somehow organizing the homeless to hang out on the square, but I most certainly can assure I am not. Folks sleep where they can find a spot they feel safe and won’t be bothered. There aren’t many places in the city left where that is true. I know a lot of people who have to find a new spot to sleep every few weeks, its exhausting and many end up on my porch a day or two until they figure it out.
One person had this suggestion.
perhaps your business can gather other businesses in the area and chip in to provide shelter for these unfortunate people. or maybe push the city to build shelters. so where will they go otherwise? you should lead the effort
To which the response was:
there are many agencies receiving funding to lead the effort in fact as a commission member of the xxx I supported the effort to get TRCs funding restored so rest assured I do my part.However supporting vigilante efforts that encourage acts that can be considered a public nuisance is not productive therefore I will not support it nor sit idly by and watch others encourage it either.
Um. TRC has nothing to do with this except we end dealing with the end results – people looking for housing that isn’t there because of the damn 2% vacancy rate and lack of affordable and rental housing in general. Funding the TRC isn’t going to have us working on shelters or day resource centers, my board specifically told me that was outside our mission, we serve tenants and landlords. (This may change.) I do all that work on my own, as an advocate.
I did respond with this, but no response so far.
Tell me, where is this person supposed to go? Businesses don’t want people there, homeowners don’t want people there, they go to the parks people don’t like that, they go to State St. and that’s a problem. Tell me, where would you like people to go? I have no idea who you are talking about or what they were doing, I just know there is no place to go. Soon the library will be open, that is supposed to solve all the ills of the world, apparently.
I might add, that if this person is on probation, there may be restrictions on where they can go, if they are a sex offender, there are definitely restrictions on where they can go. The options are not good for most people. A day center would be a start. Lockers would help too.
By the way, it would be great if the agencies receiving most of the money, Porchlight, Salvation Army, Community Action Coalition, etc would lead a charge for anything new or different in our community. Ask them, status quo is good. Or they can’t rock the boat [sic}. Or something, not sure.
What is interesting to me, two people who stayed with Occupy Madison for a short period of time, homeless or formerly homeless people also responded. One made me laugh.
Clearly Brenda never looks for better ways and has not mentioned them in any of the posts directly above.
Also, did the guy not use Tide on his laundry? If not then that’s like a double public nuisance. I bet it was some sort of weird generic knock off.
The other . . . well . . . nail. head. Much better response than mine.
This is utterly insulting and completely backwards. Homelessness is not a problem of “offense to the housed” or “offense to the employed,” it’s a problem of offense to people who are stuck homeless. I don’t think I’ve ever found anything a homeless person has done in my presence nearly as offensive as this pathetic whining about one’s “street view” or lack of space on a street bench in front of one’s workplace–and I’ve personally mingled with hundreds of homeless people and have personally befriended far more than a handful, so they’ve had plenty of opportunities to offend me while I’m not extremely thick skinned. I wasn’t even as offended by the panhandler who grabbed me and wouldn’t let go until I acted threatening.
XXXX, have you even taken the time to get well acquainted with the guy whose clothing you don’t like hanging in front of your workplace? Do you even know his name or is he just a nameless “guy” to you? Did you ask him if he would share the bench in question with you? Have you yourself ever been homeless extendedly? It’s among the most degrading of experiences, to have to hang your laundry and sort through all your belongings in front of everyone, right in the midst of what from the perspective of a homeless person appears to be an incessant gush of opulence. Being stuck living outdoors on the street is like living in Zamyatin’s glass houses. It’s like the experience of Kafka’s hunger artist, where one becomes a public exhibit, a spectacle to be viewed with disgust. It’s like Sinclair’s prison where you’re locked outside of everything anyone would want.
Think how you would feel if you were in his shoes, the guy hanging his laundry by your workplace. His right to a little dignity, as well as his right to spread out in public, unquestionably trumps your right to a nice view, hands down, and I contend that only fascists argue otherwise.
So, you propose that he should be locked up. Incarceration is a very expensive shelter program for the homeless. How many homeless people could be housed for the amount of money spent incarcerating them? Do you really wish to expand that expensive form of shelter? Especially while numerous other simple very inexpensive options would work for many but are dismissed by the city?
Seriously, you should just be damned thankful you have a job at all and a bit of privacy under a roof somewhere, irrespective of the appearance of the landscape of either. You’re damn lucky you don’t have to pass through gangs of thugs to get to either. If your main problem is “the view” or the “lack of bench space,” push the city for more benches and push your street dwelling neighbors to share the benches in the meantime, and push the city *specifically* for more economical alternative programs to get people off the streets and give the person in question shelter yourself in the mean time, and above all quit whining and over inflating what’s no more than a trifle of harm to you compared to the suffering and strife of the average person who is victimized to the point of ending up stuck living a dehumanizing existence on the streets in the midst of a constant parade of gluttony.
Your “behavior” here, xxxx, is the behavior that is the most “inappropriate,” to whine about the appearance of the homeless without one word of sympathy, without one proposal for solving the problem other than incarceration. Absolutely stunning.
Makes you wonder how that person was ever homeless, clearly this person is skilled and educated. This person isn’t an alcoholic (never seen him drink a drop and I suspect he never does) and not apparently mentally ill. (Hey, I”m not an expert, who knows?! But doesn’t appear to be to me.) I happen to know and its sad and frustrating and unfortunately not atypical. He’s right, you might want to talk to some of these folks one day, instead of sticking your nose in the air and making assumptions.
The good news here is that I don’t think the loitering ordinance is aimed at the person with laundry hanging out on the bench, its aimed at people loitering for purposes of criminal activity if I understand it correctly. We’ll see, I guess.
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