Leaders of the religious community in Madison gathered on the steps of the City County Building Thursday to condemn new legislation banning individuals from sleeping in front of the building.
The legislation went into effect Thursday, Oct. 1. A small crowd gathered to hear the words of various local leaders, including Director of Outreach Ministries Karen Andro, Director of Madison-area Urban Ministry and County Supervisor Linda Ketcham and County Supervisor Carousel Bayrd, District 8.
Bayrd addressed her concerns about the lack of effort the local government has put into addressing homelessness issues. Bayrd cited the Judge Doyle Square project, saying she wished the city would spend that much time and money on homeless issues.
“Shame on us,” Bayrd said. “I want the council to stay up till 3 a.m. trying to figure out how to create more affordable housing.”
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Bayrd spoke out against fellow officials who have made sleeping in front of the City County Building a crime. Creating fines to impose on the homeless makes it even more difficult for them to later acquire the affordable housing they need to get off the streets, she said.
Cal Fleming, an attendee of the event, is a member of the Friends of the State Street Family organization. His wife, Tami Miller, started the organization four years ago in order to help provide food and services to homeless individuals in the State Street area.
Fleming explained his dedication to helping the homeless individuals, as he was homeless himself for 10 years. He was lucky, he said, because he was able to receive help and get off the streets.
“We are creating an institution who criminalizes those who are hurting,” Fleming said.
Andro said preventing the homeless from sleeping in front of the building is not a solution that truly addresses the problem of homelessness in Madison.
Andro emphasized the regional churches and their ministries will continue to work with a sense of urgency on assisting individuals who need their help in the area.
“We have the luxury of losing hope,” Andro said. “The desperately poor cannot lose hope.”
Carl Gloede, Madison Police Department’s central district captain, stood in front of the Madison Municipal Building across the street as the crowd dissipated. Gloede is tasked with making sure individuals abide by the new legislation.
Ensuring that individuals are aware of the alternatives to sleeping in front of the City County Building is important to making this transition peaceful, Gloede said. He said he has managed to get to know some of the individuals that will be affected by the new legislation, and said personal relationships are crucial in this type of situation.
“They are all people,” Gloede said. “They all have different reasons why they are here. All the options aren’t right for everyone, and that’s the challenge here.”