A living site for the homeless on the East Side of Madison which began as a local offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement can no longer be a temporary housing space after a judge’s decision Monday night.
Occupy Madison, which has transformed into an encampment of the city’s homeless, lost its case for continued operation after a decision from Dane County Circuit Court Judge Amy Smith on Monday.
Inhabitants of the site and its supporters marched from the location of the site at the 800 Block of East Washington Street to the City County Building Monday afternoon. In the building, members gave speeches and sang songs of solidarity before moving upstairs to sit and continue singing outside Mayor Paul Soglin’s office.
Occupy Madison member David Williams said the gathering Monday protested Soglin’s refusal to allow them to the Occupy residents another public space for the homeless encampment.
“I think he had some sympathy for the Occupy movement last fall, but like a lot of mayors, whatever their political orientation is across the country, they don’t want to allow the precedent of permanent homeless encampments facilitated by local government,” Williams said.
He said he believes the country will never recover economically and the numbers of unemployed and homeless people will only continue to rise in the city as foreclosures continue to increase.
Williams said former residents of Occupy Madison plan to hold open-air general assemblies downtown where they will continue to protest foreclosures and demand the city do more to help the homeless.
Though he said it is a “fair bet” those of Occupy Madison, homeless and not homeless, like himself, will occupy another public space in the near future. He said he could not comment on where those sites might be.
“My message to University of Wisconsin students is … you’re facing a grim job market,” Williams said. “I think students should demand that federal and state governments restore funding to higher education, restore student financial aid and forgive student debt.”
Occupy member Trina Clemente, a resident of Madison since 2008, said she has been involved with the Occupy movement since its beginnings last fall.
“A lot of people I have learned to care about are going to be losing their home today and this has been a part of my life since early October last year,” Clemente said. “I couldn’t not be here today.”
She said the people who have worked to help the homelessness problem in Madison said homelessness has not received the same attention over the last 30 years as it has since the Occupy Madison movement.
Clemente said it is unclear what the displaced members of Occupy Madison will do after the ruling, but she worries many will simply return to the streets because they will not “suddenly have homes.”
“The things I do that I think are ethical I do for myself and because I have to look at myself in the mirror everyday,” Clemente said. “Maybe being here today will cause [Soglin] to look at himself in the mirror differently than he did yesterday.”
Ald. Lisa Subeck, District 1, said the abrupt end to Occupy Madison will only result in the homeless of the site returning to the streets where they were before. She said there are not many good options in the city for those who are homeless or have mental health issues.
She said Madison Police indicated that people must be out of the site by noon on Tuesday.
Correction: The decision was ruled by Judge Amy Smith, not Judge William Hanrahan. We regret the error.