The group of homeless people living in tents at the Occupy Madison site on East Washington Avenue was required by the city to leave by 3 p.m. Sunday.

According to a Madison Police Department statement, approximately 15 people from the site moved their camp to Lake View Hill County Park.

The statement said representatives of the group said their intent is to raise awareness of homelessness in a peaceful manner. The presence of the group violates local ordinances but does not present immediate public safety issues, the report said.

MPD will be monitoring the group’s activities until a resolution is made.

Katie Crawley, spokesperson for Mayor Paul Soglin, said they were asked to leave the East Washington Avenue location because there is no camping allowed in the city.

Soglin has held a number of meetings with community partners such as Porchlight Inc., an agency that provides shelter and programming to homeless people, Crawley said. He asked staff to meet individually with each homeless person to help find the best solution to each individual’s housing need, she said.

“We can all agree sleeping in a tent in a parking lot is not the best option for housing,” Crawley said. 

The city and other agencies are working with the group to find the best place to go, whether that place is a homeless shelter or a different housing option, she said.

“The mayor is hoping the public sector and private sector work together with people in unfortunate situations to come up with different solutions to these troubling problems,” Crawley said.

She said it is up to the police to make sure the clearing of property is as orderly as possible. Crawley said once the city posts the signs which reiterate no camping is allowed in the area, it is up to the police to make the next move.

Brenda Konkel, former District 2 alder and executive director of the Tenant Resource Center, which helps provide information about tenant and landlord responsibility, said the lack of affordable housing has become a serious issue in Madison.

She said the vacancy rate is around 2 percent, which is the lowest it has been in more than 20 years. She said the high vacancy rate is the result of increases in foreclosures, stricter banking policies, more people renting apartments and overall population growth in Dane County.

“I think the city and county have to look at the problem seriously,” Konkel said. “The mayor claims people have housing and they don’t. It’s deeply insulting that the mayor suggested that they be involuntarily committed.”

Konkel said they do not qualify to be involuntarily committed because one has to be a danger to his or herself or other people. She said the group of people in question does not meet these qualifications.

The biggest issue, Konkel said, is there needs to be more affordable housing. People making $7.25 or $7.75 per hour can’t afford to live anywhere in the city, she noted.

“Most people are determined to find another spot where they can camp as a community,” she said. “That way it’s easier to band together and help each other out.”

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