On Monday, WORT news reported on a city proposal to end the encampment in Reindahl Park. Last night, the Madison Common Council decided to send the proposal to committees.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the common council decided that people experiencing homelessness could camp in Madison’s parks without punishment. This was at a time when many shelters in the area had reduced capacity to prevent the spread of Covid. Most parks have since reverted to pre-pandemic policies. That includes Reindahl Park. In May residents were told to relocate; however, it is still the home base for an estimated several dozen campers, who have largely been left alone by the city.
Last night, the council heard a proposal introduced by District 17 Alder Gary Halverson. It would require city staff to enforce ordinances that prohibit camping. In other words, it would immediately evict anyone living at Reindahl Park. Under the proposal the city would set up toilet and hand washing facilities on separate city-owned land at 3218 Dairy Drive. It’s far out on the northeast side–near the Dutch Mill Park and Ride. It’s near an industrial park seven miles away from Reindahl, and a walk of more than two hours by foot. Those facilities would be available until the end of October.
At the common council meeting, Halverson asked to suspend the rules to allow the proposal to be introduced and voted on in the same council meeting. The council ultimately voted against suspension of the rules 13 to 6. Harrington-McKinney (1), Abbas (12), Martin (11), Carter (14), Halverson (17), and Myadze (18) were in the minority. The Reindahl encampment isn’t off the chopping block quite yet.
The council didn’t accept public comment on the proposal however the council did receive a hundred pages of public comment–both against and in support of the proposal. Those in support largely report feeling unsafe while those against call it an attack on the houseless population.
Megan Spielbauer Sandate registered to speak on a separate issue, but commented that the attempt to introduce and pass the proposal was shameful. “It is stress on our houseless folk to know that suddenly an agenda item can appear that if y’all haven’t voted against it, there hadn’t been time to get people out the meeting, which I know a lot of you recognize, but I think it does need to be voiced out loud,” Spielbauer Sandate says.
The proposal was referred to the City-County Homeless Issues Committee and the Equal Opportunities Commission.
Photo Credit: WORT’s Jonah Chester from May 2021