Occupy Madison’s tiny house project is still without a final location after receiving opposition from the Madison Police Department for the proposed project location.
Occupy has been searching for a new location for its tiny house project, which is small, portable housing, for the last eight months, Brenda Konkel, Tenant Resource Center executive director, said. The project would consist of the construction of a retail store and nine tiny homes as well as a workshop for the building process, she said.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported the tiny houses currently must be moved around the occupied neighborhood a couple times a week because a city ordinance allows them to be parked on the street as long as they are moved every 48 hours.
According to Konkel, MPD is OK with Occupy’s proposed site at the corner of East Johnson and North Third Streets being used for a building workshop, but not for the tiny houses because of its proximity to a park and school.
Konkel said the organization always runs into difficulty with issues related to homelessness because no neighborhood wants homeless services located near them. Moving to a different property is not very feasible because they have already started to spend money on it, and their lease at their current location is up on May 31, she said.
Konkel said Occupy has looked at more than 200 different properties and decided this location is the best fit.
“Finding anywhere else that works is extremely difficult,” she said.
Konkel said the site is affordable, located near a bus line, close to services that the tiny house residents would want and close to where many of the volunteers live.
She said MPD is unfairly comparing the tiny house project to a public parking lot on 800 E. Washington Ave. that had 81 people living in it. The difference for the tiny house project, Konkel said, is the small amount of residents that will be living there and the fact that it is on private property.
Konkel said rules are in place for the proposed property, and they would have the authority to remove anyone from the property who does not follow those rules. If the person removed from the property attempts to come back on, they would be considered a trespasser, she said.
MPD spokesperson Joel DeSpain said the department is not against the tiny house project, but there are concerns about where the houses are being placed. MPD has many officers that work every day with the homeless and the officers aim to ensure that they are treated with respect and dignity, he said.
“In general, I think we have a pretty good working relationship with the homeless,” DeSpain said.
Konkel said part of the issue with the location of the project is affordability and so far, MPD has not come up with suggestions for locations that are better than the one Occupy is currently planning to use.
Konkel said there will be one or two more neighborhood meetings in March discussing the project, and it will also be discussed at Urban Design Commission and Plan Commission at the end of April.