Ordinance forces homeless community to wander city streets, advocate says

Ordinance forces homeless community to wander city streets, advocate says

Members of Madison’s homeless community and their advocates say the new trespass enforcement rule making it illegal for them to live outside of the City-County Building has caused the displaced to wander city streets not knowing where they will sleep.

“There’s a higher level of distress within our community,” advocate and former alderwoman Brenda Konkel said. “There’s a higher level of people finding things that are unimaginable for them and trying to figure out ways to deal with it.”

To deal with the stress Konkel said she has heard about more homeless fighting, substance abuse, sexual assaults and even a suicide.

“Really there’s just a sense of desperation because there’s not a place for people to sleep. And getting into shelters isn’t always a given,” Konkel said. “If you don’t make it on time, there are not enough beds. People can’t get into shelters. So there’s this constant uncertainty people have. And I think that’s making people do desperate things.”

Leading the call of 12 county board members to rescind the CCB trespass enforcement, Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner said implementing the rules only because of building safety concerns was irresponsible.

“That doesn’t mean that situations didn’t happen. I’m not trying to discount that. I just don’t think it’s appropriate to displace people without making sure they have a place to go,” Wegleitner said. “I think it’s really regrettable that we did not have safe alternatives in place prior to implementing this decision.”

Homeless Vietnam Veteran Robert Morris said he has already received a trespass ticket since the rule change went into effect.

“I’m banned from over there. They put me over here. And I’m like ‘Where am I supposed to go,'” Morris asked of his current spot across the street from the CCB. “I’m on edge. I already know I am. I can’t slow down, I can’t. Because I don’t know where I’m coming or going right now.”

Representatives for Mayor Paul Soglin and County Executive Joe Parisi did not return request for comment.

Wegleitner said those who made the decision to implement the rule change have only committed to coming up with long-term housing solutions.

The county plans to spend $1.4 million to build a homeless day shelter, and Parisi’s budget proposal includes $100,000 for operating that site.