Madison council to consider shutdown of homeless encampment at Reindahl Park

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 9:46 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Madison alder Gary Halverson introduced a proposal to shut down the homeless encampment at Reindahl Park in a Common Council meeting Tuesday night.

Halverson wanted the his proposal to pass Tuesday night, but alders turned down the idea of a quick vote.

The proposal will be discussed in a later Common Council meeting.

According to the resolution, different city ordinances would be used to end the encampment, and temporary bathrooms and handwashing stations would move to another city property on 3218 Dairy Drive.

“Encampments are not a new issue in Madison,” Halverson wrote to NBC15, “Our community development department has guideline and policies to resolve encampments as they appear. This involves connecting these individuals with alternate housing options and services, including existing shelter options.”

During the pandemic, the city had allowed Reindahl Park to be a temporary encampment. In early May, that authorization ended, and the city put up eviction notices. One resolution tried to keep campers there until the city could find a better location, but it’s still waiting on multiple committees to respond.

Now, more than 40 or more campers live at the park on Madison’s far east side, according to the city’s Community Development Director Jim O’Keefe.

“The primary goal of outreach staff remains the same– to connect people who are unsheltered to shelter services or other available housing resources,” O’Keefe said. “I think you know that a good number of folks have been resistant to shelter, particularly during warmer weather, and other housing options remain difficult to find. But those efforts continue.”

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway declined an interview with NBC15 due to scheduling, but in a letter to all alders and concerned community members, the mayor addressed Halverson’s resolution, in part: “... We still need to deal with state law requirements for campgrounds, local zoning, and the issue of staffing. Once those pieces are in place, we need will need another ‘all hands on deck’ effort to help campers move to a safer location and hopefully on a path to accessing services and permanent housing.”

Alder Juliana Bennett, who introduced a resolution in May to keep homeless campers at Reindahl Park until a “suitable alternative” is found, said she will vote against Halverson’s resolution.

“I think this resolution completely disregards what we’ve been fighting for. We’ve been fighting to house people and build trust with these people,” she said.

For her own resolution, Bennett is waiting on multiple committees to make recommendations to the Common Council.

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