It was a cold day today at Reindahl Park, where up until recently over 70 people had been living in tents. Today, there were only about a dozen tents left.
The city of Madison has declared that camping will no longer be allowed at the park after today .
The city had originally tried to evict residents of the park back in May of this year, when mayor Satya Rhodes-Conways called for the temporary encampment to be closed. But still residents remained.
And beginning tomorrow, the city will begin enforcing an ordinance that prohibits overnight camping.
Residents at the park have been told that they could not camp in the park after the 6th, and that belongings had to be moved out by the 9th. But eviction notices posted around Reindahl in November state that structures, tents, and personal property must be removed from Reindahl by the end of the day today.
Rresidents at the park say that they have received conflicting information about exactly when they need to leave.
One resident of the park, who went only by Garrett, explains the confusion.
“They had wrote the 6th or the 7th, (but) they changed it up. One said 6th then the other said 7th. Nobody has a for sure definite,” Garrett says.
Residents at the park also claim that city officials were at the park on Friday, throwing away the belongings of residents of the park, further adding to the confusion of when they are supposed to leave. Video from Facebook shows city employees throwing away objects deemed “abandoned” into a garbage truck.
“They threw out a lot of stuff, a lot of it was belongings that people have had for years. A lot of the homeless, a lot of them are new here, and a lot of those things that left are fresh, too. Stuff that they had just received, maybe a passed love one or something like that. It’s just gone now,” Garrett says.
One of the city’s biggest reasons for moving people out of the park is safety concerns. Pearl Foster, who is with Community Action Against Reindahl Eviction, says that the safety issues at the park were created by the city due to the lack of resources at the park.
“This is supposed to be a TPE, and under the TPE, temporary permissible encampments, there was supposed to be certain rules to follow, such as running water and bathrooms. When a lot of people moved here in February, when the eviction went up at McPike Park, those things were not available. Advocates and volunteers like me begged the city for months to get more port-a-potties, running water, garbage cans and other things because the city didn’t provide those, they didn’t follow their own guidelines. Lighting is still not good in this park, and so the city neglected the people and then blamed the people for the neglect,” Foster says.
The city has given residents of the park several options on where to move to. One is the new community of tiny shelters on Dairy Drive, which began moving in residents last month.
The city is also housing some at the Madison Plaza hotel, which sits across the street from Reindahl park, where contractors also provide support services for long-term housing. Some residents say that they would rather stay at the park, however. Garrett explains.
“A lot of them have mental illness. I, myself, am a former vet for 6 years, and I have a hard time staying indoors a lot. So I go outdoors a lot, I do that I’ll stay out for weeks and then come back. I was bad with apartments,” Garrett says.
City of Madison employees and Madison parks department employees did not return requests for comment by broadcast.
Photo courtesy: Jonah Chester