‘Handful’ remain at Reindahl Park as city prepares to clear site

Reindahl Park Homeless
Several tents remained at Reindahl Park on Monday, December 6, 2021, as the city of Madison prepares to clear the site and move those experiencing homelessness to other shelter. WISC-TV/Channel3000.

MADISON, Wis. — A “handful” of people remained camped out at Reindahl Park Monday afternoon as the city of Madison gets ready to clear the site as winter approaches, city staffers told a committee Monday evening.

During a virtual meeting of the City-County Homeless Issues Committee, city staff members gave an update on the efforts to relocate those experiencing homelessness from the park on the city’s east side.

Reindahl Park Homeless

Several tents remained at Reindahl Park on Monday, December 6, 2021, as the city of Madison prepares to clear the site and move those experiencing homelessness to other shelter. WISC-TV/Channel3000.

Community Development Specialist Sarah Lim told the committee that all of the people who have been at the park for a longer period of time and were included in a list compiled by outreach teams at the end of October have been offered housing options if they are still experiencing homelessness.

Those who remain at the park arrived there more recently, she added. Outreach workers have been explaining options to those people as the city prepares to clear the park.

Starting Tuesday, park staff members will begin tagging personal items left behind. Property will be disposed of immediately if it has a value of $50 or less, is contraband, is perishable, poses a safety risk or does not have significant value, Lim said. The city will store other items for 45 days.

Cleanup efforts at the park will begin on Thursday; all tents, structures and belongings must be removed by then.

Finding shelter

The city recently began moving 27 people into 64-square-foot shelters at a site on Dairy Drive. The remaining three spaces at the facility have been reserved for people who have been at Reindahl Park for a while, Lim said.

Thirty-four people have been moved to hotel spaces; the city has “a few more rooms” to fill and outreach partners are working to fill them, she added.

People at Reindahl Park are being prioritized for available shelter, but when openings arise, the city will make a plan to help others move, prioritizing those who have been homeless longer, Lim said.

RELATED: Dairy Drive campground residents settle in as Reindahl Park encampment nears shutdown

Michael Moody, the CEO of Catalyst for Change, praised the city for its efforts.

“In this work, it is challenging and nothing is perfect, but in a very challenging situation to have created 60-some spaces for people is quite remarkable,” he said.

Another speaker, James DeGray, also credited the city’s work and stressed he doesn’t want to see progress stop now that the Dairy Drive site is open.

Permanent solutions

Linette Rhodes, a city grants supervisor, told the committee the city has closed on the purchase of property at 1902 Bartillon Drive near the east side DMV location for consideration for a permanent men’s shelter. Fire crews removed an abandoned building on the site as part of a training exercise, clearing the land for future use.

In addition, the city is vetting one more site for consideration.

Rhodes said planning work on the permanent shelter is set to begin next year, with construction to start in 2023.

The city is also moving forward with plans to buy a property at 2002 Zeier Road for use as a temporary men’s shelter. In May, the city council rejected plans to use the site near East Towne Mall as a permanent shelter but approved buying the site for temporary use as a shelter in October.