Madison City Council to vote on proposal to end Reindahl Park homeless encampment

MADISON, Wis. – Madison’s Common Council is set to vote on a proposal potentially ending a homeless encampment at Reindahl Park.

The proposal, backed by District 17 Alder Gary Halverson, would circumvent the need to go through committees, meaning if it gets 14 votes Tuesday night, it could be put into effect immediately.

Halverson’s proposal seeks to return the park to its primary use, disbanding the camp and moving those living there full time to another location on the city’s southeast side.

I speak for the voices of district 17,” Halverson said. “Who all support helping those experiencing homeless, but want the park returned to its intended use.”

Critics of Halverson’s proposal include Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, along with other homeless advocates. Those opposed say the plan offers no time for the dozens living in the park to find a new place to be.

I wouldn’t really call them solutions as much as I would hiding,” said Evelyn Gildrie-Voyles, a volunteer with Community Action Against Reindahl Eviction. “‘Please go away, maybe you can go here’. There isn’t any thought to the fact that the ‘here’ is away from grocery stores, away from potential places to work.”

Another concern for advocates is the lack of permanent solution offering those without a home a place to live.

“It’s hard to believe the city is in good faith trying to find a place where people who are unhoused and unsheltered can have a sense of stability until there is a workable shelter for them,” Gildrie-Voyles said. Their existing in a space is not inherently dangerous. People that are unhoused are not more inherently dangerous than people who are housed.”

Halverson, who has long said he is an advocate for the homeless, says Tuesday’s decision is about the city council stepping up to make a decision. In May, the council deferred a decision on the park after a meeting went nearly ten hours.

I think the city council has failed us for a number of years in coming up with a resolution to help those individuals experiencing homelessness,” Halverson said. “We’re basically tasked with solving a problem that many many years of councils in years previous to us have yet to do anything to solve.”

Halverson says his constituents are concerned regarding violence in the park. In the past year, he says three have died from overdose in the park, including a recent incident.

We’ve had an issue of drugs here for a number of years that I’m working with MPD on that has been exasperated by what’s happening behind me. It’s not helpful for people that are looking for a place to stay, and it’s not helpful for the park,” he said. “We shouldn’t be looking at living outside as okay.”

I understand this is not ideal,” Gildrie-Voyles “I understand people feel like they can’t fully use the park – however, as we are searching for ideal, we have to be realistic. If the city is successful in forcing them out, it doesn’t going to mean they’re sheltered, it’s just going to mean they’re harder to find.”