Mayor says some homeless treat sidewalks like ‘dorm room bathrooms’

Mayor says some homeless treat sidewalks like ‘dorm room bathrooms’

A controversial proposal to limit sleeping on downtown sidewalks is back in the spotlight after it was rejected last year.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin put the proposal back on the table at a City Council meeting Tuesday night. He said that sleeping on sidewalks has led to some rather disgusting conditions that aren’t fair to pedestrians and business leaders, like Nina Berkani-Guevara, in the area.

Teddywedgers is a Madison mainstay Berkani-Guevara’s kids grew up on.

“I would always bring them down here when we would go to Concerts on the Square. Their favorite was Big Cheesy,” she said.

Her son and daughter enjoyed it so much they decided to purchase the sandwich shop two years ago.

“We mainly have the old recipes, but my son is adding new specials every week and we are having fun with that,” Berkani-Guevara said. “He has a really fantastic following.”

In addition to that following, they’ve inherited something else. The restaurant, which sits at the top of State Street, is right next to Philosopher’s Grove, an area where many homeless and other individuals congregate.

“We didn’t anticipate the magnitude,” Berkani-Guevara said, referencing the number of people outside.

Berkani-Guevara said she supports a new ordinance that Soglin introduced. If passed, people who usually sleep along State Street and on the Capitol Square would need to pack up their belongings between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. or risk getting a $10-$25 ticket.

Soglin said it isn’t a ban on sidewalk sleeping, rather a way for city maintenance teams to do their job, and clean up sidewalks that he said have feces, urine and rodent issues because they are being treated like “dorm room bathrooms.”

With only a handful of day shelters open in the Madison area, Melissa Sorensen, the director of social services for the Salvation Army of Dane County, said the ordinance would limit an already limited number of options.

“With both the men’s and women’s shelters and family shelters everyone can come in at night, but during the day they don’t have anywhere safe that they could go,” Sorenson said. “So they find spots that they’re comfortable with and it’s hard when you have to move from them.”

The owners of Teddywedgers admit they need to do extra cleaning outside of their business because of the issue. Supporters of the ordinance have pointed to a new day shelter that will go up near the Capitol area as a solution. But with it set to open this fall, the homeless will need to get through another winter without it.