Neighborhood Remarks in Response to OM Tiny House Village

Posted January 16th, 2014 @ 11:38 AM by

I’m skipping my presentation and the information from Zoning and Public Health for now, subject of another post. The important part is the bizarre remarks from the police department – also going to be the subject of another post – and what the neighbors had to say.

The police blindsided us and the neighbors responded, so I am including that . . . and I will get to the rest later when I have time. Here’s the full audio.

POLICE
The north district captain who is new to the Northside, Captain Jay Lengfeld said the following:

I will be brief because I think it is very important to hear from the residents, but from the Madison Police Department, we are opposed to this development at this time for a number of reasons, the main reason is the location, we don’t think it is a good location to be close to East High School, Emerson School, Demetral Park where we already have problems with drugs, alcohol and disturbances and the park that is just to the east of the police department garage at Johnson and First. We believe this will increase the calls for service and I can go into more detail later on some of the other reasons that we are opposed to this, but tonight I think it is very important to hear what the residents have to say because we do work for you.

I have much to say about this . . . later, but homeless = crime is the implication and so far from the truth, we have had no police calls in the last 6 months to our location at Argosy Ct..

NEIGHBORS
Sorry no names, unless people introduced themselves. They took several speakers, then gave me/us an opportunity to respond. I will include my responses.

I live close by, I am here to learn how this proposal will help create living wage jobs in Madison, I don’t know how it will do this. So that is a concern. (mic problems) I am concerned about the lack of living wage jobs in our community and I want to know how this would help build living wage jobs in our community. I don’t think it will so I am very concerned about that. I think supply side economics is ruining our country and I am trying to understand why we should embrace this supply side proposal to the problem. And thirdly and he would like us to answer these questions and he wants to know how this will increase the quality of life for the neighborhood kids, like his children in the neighborhood.

I live right across the street diagonally from this and I am going to have to live with this every day of my life, I understand that the zoning does allow for them to do buildings and I don’t have a lot of problems with the construction, his opposition has to do with the occupancy. All the occupancy issues, he also has some questions for Alder Palm on the back of his card.

I have lived in Middleton, I have lived on the east side for a couple of years I now, I have lived on the west side and near the stadium and I could never imagine seeing a better example of Not In My Back Yard from the westside, they have room over there but they are putting it on the east side, he lives over by Oscar Mayer where everyone takes care of the yards, I not saying these people live . . . but I think the space between Williamson, where I know Brenda works, and here there is a lot of space in there, we are not squeezing it into a corner. Up in Minneapolis where I was in a self imposed sentence for 15 years there is a place called Mary’s place and the woman and her husband fought city hall tooth and nail and built a three story building and half of it is singles and half of it is families to help them get on their feet, they unfortunately stuck it on the back side of what is now Target Center so they are kind of out of the public mind, but they got it done and it works very well, they get donations up the wazoo, but they work really hard at it. I don’t see this as a solution. The mayor wants to know why people come down from Waupun, or wherever else when they get out, half of over $500,000 budget from Dane County is spent on social services, maybe that is the answer, they can get anything down here. If we are going to do something like this, we should do it right and not in cabins.

Tim, lives on Hoard St., his biggest question is a house for people is their largest investment and how is this going to impact your investment. If you lose 20% that is $30,000 on $150,000 a year home. That is his biggest concern, he doesn’t see how you are taking roughly $30,000 out of 20 people’s pockets I don’t think that is really fair, I don’t think that is a wise investment that people could lose their property value and the whole other environmental stuff. You are looking at people probably producig 35,000 pounds of waste and about 5,000 pounds of human waste with your composter and my question is where are you going to put it, is it all going to sit on the land, are you going to move it, transport it? Those questions weren’t really answered. They are homeless, they are not carless, where are you going to park another 22 cars or 11 cars around there. You talk about dignified, or Dignity Village, Dignity Village in Portland is out by the airport, they have social services, they have power, showers, power, free computers to get a job, a network of social people to get other jobs, I don’t see that there are any services that are going to help people get a job and move their lives forward. One person claps.

Tom Hoffman, works for PDQ, his biggest concern is when the Occupy encampment was down the street at the county park we had numerous customer complaints about people loitering in their stores, using our bathrooms, panhandling outside the stores, what is going to be done to prevent that from happening and not push our customers away from us.

Brenda’s Response:
I will answer as many of the questions as possible and quickly move on, but I am writing down and we are happy to come and talk with people and meet again. First of all I just want to apologize, I did attempt to contact the police department, we were not aware they were opposed to this project, they haven’t talked to us at all. We have talked to several of the police officers who came out and visited us at our workshop and we have had generally a very good relationship with the police department and generally support from the captains in the areas we have been in, that was a big shock to us, we are going to have to do some work on that because we were not aware of that. We did reach out to the police department and attempt to talk to them, they didn’t call us back. As far as creating living wage jobs, we can’t do everything with this project there is a lot of things that need to be done in our community and we understand that, I would love to create living wage jobs too, that is not something we are going to be able to address. As far as NIMBYism and where this is going to go, we have looked at over 200, well, probably 400 properties, I turns out this one was in a price range we could afford, on a bus line, and that had the garage doors that were the right height. We did not pick this neighborhood, we did not pick the east side, I live live on the east side, I work on the east side, but that wasn’t really part of where we determined where we would go, we didn’t target this neighborhood, we didn’t target the east side by any means, this was just the property that was available. We need more social services in this community, I will not argue with that for a moment, I wish there was social services to help everyone who is living there, to do the things that to be done, those social services don’t exist. I have been working for 20 years in the area of affordable housing and trying to help people who are in poverty and try to improve their lives, we are doing our small piece of what we can with this project, we can’t do everything, we are all volunteers, this is all money that has been donated by the community, there is no government funding in this at all, that is where we are coming from, we can’t be the answer to everything. As far as the compostable toilets, that will not be stored on our property, that will be picked up by the porta-potty places, we won’t be storing any compost on our property, I don’t think that there is going to be 22 cars there for 11 houses, I would be surprised if there was three cars there for 11 houses. Volunteers may have some cars, but that is the great thing about this site, most of our volunteers either ride their bike or ride the bus, so I don’t think you will see a lot of increased traffic, tho I am happy to talk about that in the zoning process and figure out how to manage that so it is the least disruptive for the neighborhood. PDQ, I think he is talking about the Northport PDQ and this is an entirely different situation, (confusion), I believe he was saying there was problems at PDQ in the past and I believe that was at Northport, when people were camping on the hill, so this is a completely different situation, we have an office, with showers, restrooms, we have facilities, we have heat, water, we have all those things that were not available at the Northport site, so I think that goes a long way towards addressing a lot of the concerns, I am guessing some people will want to shop at PDQ and buy some items, I’m not going to say they are not going to do that, but I am not sure that this is suddenly going to become a hang out, I think they are going to be on our property and in their houses where they have heat and water and the amenities that they would have needed on Northport. The other thing is that most of the people that were on Northport are not necessarily involved in this project, I think 2 from Northport, I don’t think it is the same population.

Persons name was (Seth), he lives in the house kitty corner from the project, the little green house on the corner with the extremely tall picket fence. When I heard about this I had a few thoughts, I wondered if they knew that this intersection floods to about 2 feet whenever it rains even a little bit and then I thought what a wonderful smell a composting toilet would have floating around in an intersection might be. As a neighbor I can hear every word of every conversation at the bus stop held 20 feet from my bedroom window, yes I can hear everybody, you know who you are. On top of the garbage that accummulates in my yard, I thought we will have potentially 20 new neighbors leaving whatever they are going to leave for me to pick up in the morning – ultimately I think those things can be worked around or taken care of in some way but what really concerns me is ultimately who is accountable for this, if my property value drops, who do I go to to be compensated, if my house is vandalized, who do I go to, who is accountable, so far, no one has told me. Who is adding to my insurance, who is adding to what I need to do to keep my family safe, all I have heard is what you are taking.

Dave has been in the neighborhood for about 4 years, my wife has been here for 20, I would never suggest that I speak for her, anyone that knows her . . . anyways, but I think we are both on the same wavelength, I think to suggest there are going to be problems, before there are problems is both a disservice to the neighborhood and to the residents that we are talking about, our new residents. In the last few years, I have had 2 or 3 new neighbors move in to the neighborhood, some rental, some purchase, I didn’t assume up front there was going to be problems, I don’t think we should assume up front there is going to be problems here. I think we should deal with it as it comes, I think we live in a neighborhood that is embracing, again I am fairly new, but I have seen such diversity, such an intersting group of people, if anybody thinks there are not already homeless people living in or passing through our neighborhood on a daily basis they are fooling themselves, this is a base for people to start again and I think we should embrace that. (lots of loud clapping)

Janet on Upham St., a close neighbor, she has lived there for 7 years, she loves the proposal, she has been supportive of the Occupy Madison Build from the beginning, it is very much a Habitat for Humanity model, its about sweat equity and people willing to build their own dwelling and change their own situation. As the last speaker said, I would never want to make judgements about what these people might do, but my hope is that it will be similar to Dignity Village in Portland which is a beautiful, inspiring example, full of art and creativity and people who have turned their lives around. I think this is going to be a huge boost to the neighborhood. I have contributed to it already and will be contributing, I am going to a meeting on Friday to be part of the committee organizing around the fence and garden pieces that will beautify and she is glad to be part of that. She thinks that it will be important for Alder Palm and other alders and city staff to try to see that although this is a small project, that there would be some ways that some social services would flow to support the site, its not going to turn around the homelessness problem, but it will be one small, and I hope inspiring piece of the solution. The city can help to make that happen by providing supportive services (more clapping)

Justin lives at the house immediately across the street from Sanchez Motors, we don’t support this addition to our neighborhood. We have real concerns about the sanitation and people living on that lot. We have seen that there is no security for people living on that lot. No screening or contracts that the tenants will have to live up tom we have seen no example of the groups finances to support this, and what happens if they run out of money, we have not seen that these facilities are adequate to live in in the Wisconsin weather that we have to deal with here, we have real questions with the groups history and the encampments that have been set up before and we don’t see this as a solution to the homelessness problem, it just (encloses?) it, you are not building homes for people, you are just building a sort or temporary dwelling, we don’t want to see that across the street, what about security if there are any problems, its going to be our problem because it is right outside our window, and if anything is unsanitary, it will be our problem as well. I don’t support this.

Dianne lives 2 blocks from the property and she is very excited and incredibly thankful to all the work and effort and outreach that has already gone into this project, she thinks it is very important, she appreciates everyone coming out, including those who are airing concerns because this is the beginning of a long give and take process and she really hopes that at the end of this we can come to an agreement and my neighborhood that has been my home for the past seven years, as a homeowner here, is able to welcome these people who deserve, especially in a Wisconsin winter, I mean, how many people know that there was a homeless man who died last week, in Madison. So, the need is real, and I think something that hasn’t been mentioned or stressed as much as in the meeting last week at the neighborhood association meeting is that the people that will be in these tiny homes will have been working on these homes, working on them putting in hundreds of hours working on them, its funny that Janet mentioned the Habitat for Humanity model because I have been thinking about this is Habitat for Humanity but more open to people who are more on the margins so I looked at what the Habitat for Humanity screening process is and you need 3 years of housing history, and good credit and all these things that people who are homeless wouldn’t have access to. But you would know a person much better working side by side with them over several months putting in those hundreds of hours. And so not being directly involved with Occupy Madison and being familiar with all the good work and effort and hard things that they have worked through up until now, I feel completely confident that their good effort, you know they want this to succeed as much as we do and I think I am confident that this will be an addition and enrichment to our neighborhood. Other people have said this is just part of the solution, you know no one group, no one project, let alone a volunteer one is going to be able to solve economic inequities or solve homelessness. Last, I want to challenge, you know a lot of concerns I have heard about the project are people who lump, who make assumptions or lump these people together with a random person who you met at Demetral or had a negative interaction with, or random this person or that person. It’s completely unfair and I’m sad to hear that it sounds like the police is doing that as well, and we really should be not make assumptions based on fear, but information and work with the process to make this a wonderful addition to our neighborhood.

Cori lives at Dayton and Third a block away from the location. She is probably 80% against the project, she is not against the idea of building tiny homes, she thinks that is a great idea, but this location is far from perfect. She has a 9 year old step son who likes to ride his bike around and we like to let him ride around freely and welike to let him ride around and we are now concerned that we will need to keep an eye on him. So, with that said, her concern is mainly safety and environmental. Will these people have background checks, will they go through an application process. Will they have alcohol and drug problems, who oversees the location, will there be a manager on site in case we do have issues. Environmental, who is going to take care of the trash and the ground keeping, the toilets, the sink and so on.

Brenda’s response:
Again, I will try to hit a bunch of points all at once. One think I want to mention first is part of what we did when we went out west to look at the villages, not only did we look at villages but we looked at encampments as well. Some of them were set up so that every 90 days 100 people would move from church site to church site, it was a tent encampment, it was a completely different thing, but one of the things that we learned, every single project that we looked at had some things in common. One was that the people who lived on the site went out and did neighborhood clean ups, every few hours they would go walk around the neighborhood, they would help clean up things, they would make sure people were not causing any trouble and they patroled it themselves, much like they did at the day center last winter. That is something we would likely end up incorporating in this, its a lot about self policing and making sure that community members keep an eye on community members to make sure that things don’t go wrong in the community. It is difficult to stand here and hear the assumptions some of the people are making about my friends, so I’m having a hard time responding to some of those questions. I will tell you that we work in the shop 20 – 30 hours a week sometimes side by side with the folks that will be living in these houses. We know them, we know them well, everyone is not perfect 100% of the time. But we work with them, we have faith in them, in the folks that are coming forward and working hundreds of hours to help create their home. They are trying to do something, the system wasn’t working for them, they are trying to do something outside the system to make something work in their lives. Many people have applied for hundreds of jobs and don’t get them because they are older, and its hard for an older person to get a job when they are competing with college students. And I see a lot of people shaking their heads because I know some of you are in that same position. Just so you know, it is really hard to talk about these things because I know people have stereotypes about what a homeless person is, what caused their homelessness and maybe what they are doing wrong. But I will tell you that it is very hard for a person that is living in poverty in this community to pull themselves out, it is expensive to be poor and it is hard to save money. Its hard to find housing, we have a 2% vacancy rate, even for my own employees at the Tenant Resource Center who go out and look for housing, it is extremely difficult, they don’t meet the three times the rent standards that the landlords want them to meet, there is a 2% vacancy rate which is 1/3 of what it is supposed to be, so it is very difficult. I think there are some assumptions that if we just had some social services of gave someone a job that everything would be fixed, I am not sure in reality that it works that way. As far as the flooding, the landscaping guy pointed that out immediately and we are looking at some grading or some things we can do about the water flow on the site. As far as noise goes, again, the self policing, the people who are in charge of security, they would actually do security shifts, this is a cooperative community, you are not going to just come here and sit here, you are going to be working all day, in the shop, you’re going to do your security shift, you’re going to clean the bathrooms, you’re going to do all those things that happen. Again, the compostable toilets will not be emptied on the site, they will be emptied in some other fashion as you would an RV. As far as the documents, there is a tiny house contract that people sign, Allen has a whole binder full of documents for anyone who wants to review them. There are also codes of conduct, there are weekly meetings, if people are not following those codes of conduct they are brought before the group and the group can determine that they are no longer working out on the site and their tiny house could be taken away from them and they would lose all that hard work they put in to them and they would have no place to live. There is a lot on the line for the folks that will be living in this community. Again, we need this to work, if we are going to continue to do this and build more than 11, and have another site in the future and build a larger eco-community that we want to do, this site has to work. So we are putting a lot of effort in to making sure this works and I want to assure you that is probably more important to us that it works out and that the neighbors don’t even know we are there, that is ultimately the goal.

Trina from our group, points out that she and her husband Luca, live in the neighborhood and there is not one member of Occupy or OM Build that wants anyone’s property values to go down, no one wants any neighborhood, in this case this is our neighborhood, but any neighborhood to go down. We are not so committed to the dregs of society, which seems to be the assumption, the painful assumption, that we believe quality of life for all of us should go down – that is just not our mind set at all, we are all members of neighborhoods, we all want this to succeed. She did want to say one thing, because it always comes up, in different ways at the meeting, and the woman who was talking about not allowing her step-son to not ride his bike without supervision. That is an especially sort of painful accusation. We have kids, our kids are older now, they are teenagers, they come, I don’t have a problem. The vast majority of law enforcement is aware of this, sexual assault or child molestation occurs within families, and amongst friends and by people who are known and trusted in those children’s lives, they are not folks that cannot get housing. WE have never been evicted, we have job and it took us two years to get housing – gentleman from the audience interrupts and wants to get to more questions –

North District police captain jumps in and says he wants to make a clarification, he says we have had encampments in three different locations, 800 E Washington, up at Social Service Building and out at Portage Rd and every one of those areas it increased calls for services, we had problems and they were asked to move to a different location. He just wants to make sure everyone understand that some of the comments I made were based on data and our experience. And I think that is important for everyone to understand. Now I don’t know who is going to be in these and who was in all these other encampments, I can just tell you that we have had encampments before and it has increased police calls.

Lots of of people speak in response, lots of voices, the loudest one said this is a different model and it is not a bad one. Larry tries to regain control of the meeting.

Tripp lives at 2009 E Mifflin and he is opposed. A lot of the reasons he is opposed have been brought up and he is not opposed to that. What he is interested in hearing, people can be marginalized and people brought up legitimate concerns about that and it alot of it has to do with no knowing exactly who will be there and we haven’t heard yet whether there will be any screening criteria, if that is part of the plan, what would those screening criteria be. Second thing Matt Tucker brought up, they will be constructing more tiny houses than you plan to keep at the property, where are those going to go? I’m not quite sure what the restrictions are on parking them in the street, is the overflow going to be in the neighborhood? Secondly, he thinks that the way the project has been described it is a trailer park, so I think you are kidding yourself if you think it is not going to affect the property values, this is a neighborhood with single family homes, some owner occupied some rented, but to put 8 to 10 trailers next to a school, next to this kind of neighborhood, I think is going to degrade the quality of life for people who are already here. If you could answer the question about the screening criteria and the where the extra house are going to go, that would be great.

Bob hasn’t formed an opinion, that is why he is here. He has some concerns, number one is safety, specifically drug and alcohol, I don’t know what the policy is going to be on that, if there are people abusing alcohol and causing problems, that is an issue for him. Also sewage and the third is trash. We already have all the high school kids in the area and we have to go out there daily and pick it up.

Person on 2100 block of E Dayton St. half a block from the High School, he has three young kids, lived there since 1996, they like the neighborhood and are not going anywhere. The high school is an interesting example, it reminds me of when we moved in to the neighborhood, there were a lot of people that were afraid of being a half a block from East High School, some kids loiter and leave cigarette butts and there is the athletic team that tries to sell you the little coupon that you never use and you end up buying one anyways. But there are also the kids that come and rake your leaves, which is really nice. I didn’t come here with a formed opinion, I just wanted to learn because I live really close by. I have two questions, one of them is for the group proposing and one is more the nuts and bolts, but the answers are important and helpful and it goes to not who the people are, you might not know that, is there an upper limit of people that can stay, I understand it is transitional housing, but how transitional, will there be different people there every night? Are people allowed to stay there for several weeks, months, some answers to that would be really helpful. To get a better grasp of what it is all about and hopefully alleviate some of the concerns and fear, legitimate concerns that people have. The second question is for the neighbors, there are homeless people all over, if you keep your eyes open there are people at Demetral, at Tenney Park, people sleep under the bridge when you ride your bike, at the library, people are there, they don’t go away, they have to go somewhere. So the second question is for this group, I think we should approach this with an open mind, but also with an open heart. Thank you. Loud applause.

Anne lives on Upham St, she has been involved with Occupy Madison in the past, this last summer she put in about 20 hours working on the tiny house so she knows a little bit about what are about, how they are built and what they will be used for. I wanted to make the point that there is really a lack of affordable housing in this city, there really is no where to go, its not just that they want to get something for free or want to be freeloaders, there really are no other options for them. And the city keeps building expensive housing, but they don’t build affordable housing, so that is what this group is going to be doing. The shelters that exist are not sufficient, there are a number of reasons why people don’t stay in them, they fill up, people get banned, they are dirty and dangerous, this will provide an alternative to the dangerous shelters. I know a lot of people don’t want this in our neighborhood, I for one would want this in our neighborhood. I understand people’s concerns, but really where else are people going to go, you can’t send people to the outskirts of town, you can’t just dump them all in one place because that creates a ghetto, I’d rather have an integrated community. I don’t want segregation, I want people to be integrated into our neighborhood. I want a mixed income neighborhood, that is a much better model. This is not the complete and final solution to homelessness in Madison, this is just a start, think about this as a building block, if we can build one of these in our neighborhood, our neighborhood will be an example for every other neighborhood in Madison and maybe someday every neighborhood will have a thing like this going on and it will be beautiful – more clapping.

Larry asks if others want to come up and speak, we have 15 minutes and we want to know if there are more questions or answers.

Kate lives on 2100 block of E Dayton and she lives around the corner form the property and she wants to address two things that she heard tonight. One is that almost every single concern she has heard about the property they have dealt with on the property adjacent to hers, we have had drug use, trashing of property, gun violence, right there, and there was no one vetting anyone in that property, there were no social services showing up to help out with the people in the property, there is really no assurance when you buy a property who the neighbors will get in the future, there is no way to assure that. But she wanted to point out that they solved that, as a community, we worked with the services available to the city to solve the problems going on there and she feels it was a little bit tough of us to assume we are going to have all of these problems in a new project without having ever tried it. Should we try it and there are problems, there are resources in the city to deal with problems that may arise, so we don’t need to come to the table assuming the worst about it. The second thing she wants to address are children in the neighborhood, she has two young children as well and she would be delighted to have them exposed to a wider slice of humanity and understand that you don’t need to have mortgage and bank account to have dignity and human worth. (clapping)

Heidi Wegleitner, county board supervisor for the neighborhood, lives a couple blocks from the property on E. Dayton St. She doesn’t have any official decision making authority in the process at all, she just wanted to let us know she is here and encourage folks to remain open minded and think about the potential. To her, she thinks her next door neighbor said it really when when she emailed and said that I like the idea of 6 – 10 houses in several neighborhoods around the community as opposed to having 80 houses out by the airport somewhere because then folks are isolated and not connected and not a part of all of the good things that is Emerson East. She thinks that we have so much creativity and so many skills within our community and we really saw a maximizing of that potential last year with the day center temporary resource center, an entirely different project and proposal, but initially there were concerns and similar concerns exhibited at a neighborhood meeting like this and I’m not speaking for that neighborhood, but I would say this, the way that neighborhood followed up and became involved and inspired and engaged with the folks there, it brought, in a lot of ways, it gave more to the residents than it did to the guests of those services, because it gave something right within their neighborhood where they could go to be useful, to connect to people that we are otherwise isolated from because as was mentioned we do live in really economically and racially segregated community in Madison. She is also the Vice Chair of the Homeless Issues Committee and she works with homeless people on a daily basis and there are many, many faces of homelessness so you can’t really wipe a broad brush across homelessness. They are also revising their comprehensive plan right now and the way we need to deal with the 10% increase in people using our homeless services and the 10s of 1000s of people needing affordable housing is to try lots of different approaches. This is not the solution, as was said, but one of these costs about $5,000 to build and to build an affordable housing apartment it costs about $80,000, it going to take a long time to make sure everyone has a home in Dane County, and she is working on that, but we need to be creative and we need to have an open mind and lead by example, if something like this, a small scale project, can’t succeed in Emerson East, where would it. She encourages people to get more information, she wouldn’t expect anyone without information to support something, I also encourage the OM Build folks, and I have heard them say this, to continue to be accessible and to not be defensive when people raise concerns, because there are legitimate concerns out there, but this is the beginning of the process. That is why we are here, there are lots of opportunities to work through the details and that is why we are here, so we are talking through it all together, like the woman just mentioned that when they had a problem house they came together and they worked through that stuff. I think being proactive, addressing stuff head on and honestly but respectfully is the way to address this. Feel free to contact me, but again, I don’t have a vote. Clapping. (And this is Lincoln)

Lisa lives off E Johnson up the street, she was thinking about this right now if she was going to buy a house and this encampment was here, she would not buy right here. The second thing is, she is so happy there are people doing positive things for the homeless. She does not want to live down the street from a campground, nor would she want to live down the street from a fraternity house. Its a quiet neighborhood with certain zoning, there is a limit to who can live here, 22 people would be a lot of people in the area. The next question I have, how will you keep people from having 30 people over in the evening. How will you keep people from living in the house with the bathrooms at night? The second thing is, you have no screening program, you have no background checks, she is with the officer here, she is a civil servant, she is a firefighter and she works downtown on State St. for 5 years, every night we responded to homeless people, they were drunk, they were mean, some of them were nice when they were mentally ill and taking their meds, they didn’t always take their medicines, can you guarantee me none of these people will be living in your houses. Its a fact. It is great if you have great contact with people, but she, on a regular basis, has not. It has gotten to the point where she didn’t even want to walk down State St. any more because she knew what these people were capable of. When we were thinking about this, I thought, the poor guy, the PDQ, I love the PDQ, I don’t want to go to PDQ anymore because I have had such bad experiences walking by groups of homeless people. If this goes through, and I hope it doesn’t, but you need sufficient background checks, criminal checks, mental health checks, if this goes through you need social services for alcohol and drugs and mental illnesses. She hopes it doesn’t go through. Clapping.

Jay lives with wife and 3 month old boy next door to the building, right down the street, he doesn’t discriminate based on someone’s shelter status and he is left hopeful and inspired by what these folks are trying to accomplish. He walks by Sanchez Motors almost every day and I would encourage my neighbors in the room to consider the number of cars there now, (laughing) and tires and trash and environmental problems already existing there. Keep and open mind and consider what the vision is there and I think it could be a lot better. (clapping)

Person is hesitant and supportive all at the same time. She loves the tiny house movement in part because she is a violence against women advocate and this gives women safety. Homeless women at that some of the highest risk for sexual assault. On the other hand, the statistics about who is homeless are changing due to all the other societal issues we have that are compounding where people with histories are able to live, so that is a complicated issue. But she supports the idea of a safe home, for women, so she loves that. She thinks a lot of problems she is hearing is related to the high density of use. We don’t get to chose our neighbors, but we normally get a couple neighbors at a time, instead of 20 at a time. And so I think that a lot of the perceived problems is that it is nice to hear that there is not going to be noise, but how do you have 11 new families without inherently increasing the noise. She is generally supportive and loves the idea of a workshop. And she loves the idea of having some tiny houses in the neighborhood, this is such an over use of a small property, there is so many uses, the gardens, the workshop, the housing location and I think maybe it is a community center to, it seems overused and I think that is what is causing the concern, she is an advocate for trying it with less use and seeing how that works out. Finally she says some of the concerns, the undereducation about homelessness, and part of that is because the accepted offer was made before the neighborhood was approached, the City of Madison did a better job of asking our community what would work for us when we decided to do a dog park here and I would have loved to have someone come and say what does your neighborhood want to do to address this problem of homelessness and I think our neighborhood would have risen to it. It feels like this is an after thought to some people, we are feeling defensive because this came as somewhat of a surprise and I think if we would have had articles in the neighborhood newsletter, not having it happen over the holidays, it would have been an easier process. She would like to get educated more, she would like to slow down the process and talk about density and overuse and all the different ways our neighbors can help support homelessness and how it will work for our neighborhood. Cuz I think we can do it, we may have to tinker with it, but I think we can help. (clapping)

Jerry lived in the neighborhood 15 years on Hoard St. and now on Dahle St. and he would like to be hopefully encouraged. They way he would like to think about it is that it is the best alternative that he has ever seen to what the current situation is. He doesn’t know how many people frequent Demtral after hours or how many have talked to the homeless people there, or are storing their suitcase with their neatly folded clothes under the new bushes. We have worked a lot on Demetral Field and had a hard time cleaning it up. I have sat and talked to the homeless, they have come to our neighborhood potlucks, I have tried to use the outhouse when someone is living there. It is a little difficult to knock on the door and they are sleeping there with their fancy acquired bike outside. I don’t have kids in the neighborhood but there are lots of kids I know. I hope if you go through Demetral and help us clean up the garbage that you don’t find the guns with the sawed off serial number or the hypodermic needles, the police have been very responsive and the parks staff have been very helpful, but if you have never sat and talked to any of the homeless people, do you really know what the situation is. Do you remember when Demetral Shelter was last destroyed and tagged and all the references to fire and the next week Eken Park was burned to the ground, not necessarily by homeless people, but by high school students or kids in the neighborhood. He called the police, he found all the debris and mapped it all out. I guess I’d like to remain hopefully encouraged, he is on the site at Sanchez twice a day, cuz he bikes to work, he is a civil servant too. He would like to to echo what he heard Heidi and Janet and Dianne and Kate say, this is a start, this is not the end all, but it is a start and to his mind, if you really are out there and know what the situation is out there today, what better alternative, have you ever cleaned up the parking lot at Demetral after the campers and fires and the toilets are closed, its a mess. Have you ever noticed all the campers on 6th St? So, yeah we have some discussion to do, yeah there is a comprehensive planning process, yeah things are moving a little fast, but anyone have any crazy great ideas compared to what we have right now? (clapping)

Rochelle from Oak St. and she thinks that a lot of the concerns you are hearing tonight would have been prevented if we had gone through what people’s rights are as a citizen and what are the responsibilities. People are always talking about what are the right to this or that, but I think we need to seriously consider that. Also, if people are not responsible, what are the consequences, it sounds like you are going to be doing a lot of self policing but then what after people move in will the neighbors have any say, is there any wiggle room for improvements after it all goes in, we need to slow down and consider the options. I’m all about people having rights, but I am also about having responsibilities, following through and knowing about the responsibilities and I think that everyone who spoke tonight about their concerns has a right to the concern that there is, it just needs to be addressed. Show this is the concern, this is what we are doing about it and these are the consequences and then I think people could all get on the same page. It is a serious issue, I appreciate all the volunteer time everyone has put in, I am on the fence, I don’t know what I think about it yet, this is the first night I heard about it.

Woman speaks to the resilience and fortitude and character of the people standing in front of you, it really was a shock to me when you said you were against it (talking to Captain Lengfeld) I gotta say I was really angry with you. And I had to step it down, as I heard it and I heard over the holidays, I thought, you need a little time. You don’t know them the way I do. And I must say is that when I see a police uniform, I have heard some stories (laughter) and I must say it takes me a little time. He’s not necessarily that guy because he is wearing a uniform, and the folks that are coming through this process have a default pre-screening due to the fact that they built the homes similar to Habitat for Humanity, and I think that the more people have the concerns I can see why you might need a little more. (Some clapping)

Ed, the architect says that he is a member of the church and he helped redevelop it and raise the property values and he thinks they have the same opportunity, its not exactly a plus when you look at the values of the surrounding properties as it is now. Folks talked about having an open mind, whenever he looks at a property that is the starting point, you look at it and discover what is opportunities are. It is really thought and choice and intention where you end up and I’m inviting the whole neighborhood in joining in the positive process, in making this the best damn village, he has never had a chance to design a village, its a different animal than we have all encountered so we are all having some confusion and concern and a lot of wondering because most of us are uniformed or unexperienced about who we are dealing with or the kind of problems we are dealing with. The structure of our economy is designed to create failure in people and we should redesign our local economy to reverse that trend and this is what this is about. (clapping)

Larry makes announcements about where we are at.

Molly just moved to the neighborhood last year, just bought a house, lived all over the neighborhood, lived in Vilas, Marquette, southside, eastside, westside, she picked this neighborhood to buy her house in, saved many years to be able to afford it, she lives on the 2100 block, kitty corner and she was amazed to hear the project, she thought this is the neighborhood I want to live in, this is a neighborhood that is trying to solve problems that exist in our society and I cam tonight to meet my neighbors, I moved and it has been a cold winter and I’ve been huddled in my house and I have not met all of you yet, my house is the one with the christmas lights falling off, you have probably driven buy it and she was a little disheartened to hear the negativity and scrutiny and she found herself thinking wow, is that what everyone is thinking about me as a new resident? You know, do my neighbors think I am an alcoholic or an abuser or going to generate problems. I might have thought differently, I picked this neighborhood because I thought it was diverse and welcoming unlike some of the other neighborhoods in Madison. She thinks it is an interesting project and is interested in seeing how it moves forward, she is right across from it and she can see the PDQ neon in her living room right from my window and all the issues with the apartment building and Demetral and everyone else (clapping)

Woman (missed name) lives in 2100 block as well and she hopes this is a project that is beautiful and wonderful and perfect because they have been trying to sell their house and that is the way she is looking at it. If you know someone who thinks it is perfect to live across the street from this type of an establishment, that would be great, unfortunately, she doesn’t foresee that happening. It’s the not in my back yard, she grew up in the country, she is a city girl by marriage and she is trying desperately to get out because she wants goats and horse and all that kinds of stuff I can’t have there. She says that every time someone sees the house they leave their comments and I see they don’t want to live across the street from an apartment complex, we don’t want to live across form Sanchez Motors, am I going to see on those comment cars that we don’t want to live across from a tiny house village, maybe, maybe not, but you know, wherever the lady is that just spoke, find me another one just like her and I will be happy.

Rose lives between here and the site, she wants to bring up two parallels that come to mind. Perfect parallels, her understanding is that we already have transitional housing in this neighborhood and she has lived here a couple years and hasn’t had any trouble with it, that is not to dismiss those concerns. She also wanted to bring up the issues of the white shack that was across the street that they wanted to tear down and they wanted to put up a Milios and there was a lot of objections to that and it turned out great and I really like the sandwiches that they make and so I just wanted to bring up that sometimes things turn out better than you imagined. (clapping)

Brenda response:
I can’t answer all the questions that were asked, this is the beginning of the process. We put the offer to purchase on . . . mic issues. I want to thank everyone who expressed their concerns, we put the offer to purchase in quickly because last time we tried to do something like this, the property was bought out from underneath us, so in order for this to happen anywhere we had to do that, there are lots of contingencies, one of the contingencies is that we get zoning approval and part of that is that you all are satisfied with the project moving forward, so this isn’t the end of the process, it is the beginning. We have the contingencies in place. I also want to address how the property will continue to be maintained, I don’t know if you understood city speak when Matt said it, but we can have conditional uses on that property and if it is not working out, the plan commission can have continuing jurisdiction and the plan commission can revoke our ability to do something. We are willing to talk about those things, we know this is different, it is not something that has been tried of here in Wisconsin that we know of. We will address the noise and other issues to the best of our ability, those are some of the things that can be subject to continuing jurisdiction and you would have the ability to go back and say no more tiny houses can be parked there, you can have the workshop but no tiny houses, those are things that are possibilities. I don’t want anyone to think that this is something that is getting rammed down your throats, this is work in progress, very much so work in progress. That is why we are having this meeting so early and I thank Larry for setting it up so quickly, it was kind of a minor miracle that he was able to do that. As to the background checks, I work at the Tenant Resource Center, background checks are something that is kind of difficult, what kind of background checks do you set and do those background checks really indicate what the behavior will be in the future. What we do is look at people’s current behavior and if people can behave and follow the rules, and there are tons of rules, please look at our website, at occupymadisoninc.com, they will lose their house if they can’t follow the rules. Those are severe consequences to someone who will be back out on the street sleeping with a sleeping bag, no tent, no roof, no nothing. So, I want you to think about waht the risk is for the people who will be living in these houses, it is not a minor consequence. It is eviction. You have to follow the rules. Alcohol and drugs, we do not have a strict ban on it, but we do have behavior rules, some people may drink or use alcohol, I’m sure many of you here in this room do and if you can follow the rules, its not a problem. If you can’t behave yourself, it becomes a problem, you can lose your tiny house. We look at people’s current behavior, we look at what is happening and we try to work with people who might be struggling with some sort of an issue to the best of our ability. I would love to respond to more questions, I took notes, I recorded it, so if I didn’t take notes I will be able to respond to those, and we can put some questions and answer on the website.

Bruce Wallbaum said that the way the shop works it is open every night. If you are wondering who is going to police the shop, every night we have volunteer shifts at the shop so there are 4 – 10 people working on site every night. As far as police calls, no police calls since OM Build started, so 7 months no police calls, all the judgement and bias is based on the encampments, this isn’t the encampments. And thirdly, as far as the design of the homes, it was designed by a structural engineer who has a PhD in structural engineering and I have a engineering degreees in designing HVAC and heating and cooling system.

We agree to have another meeting in a month and Larry asks people how many houses they want, and it was kind of unclear to me the result but about 20 people wanted none out of about 200 according to media reports.


Categories: | Madison | Media

Forward Lookout's Comment Policy - use a real e-mail, if not an actual name. We don't share your e-mail with anyone.
blog comments powered by Disqus