The City Council voted against an ordinance Tuesday that banned sleeping on sidewalks and around downtown buildings.
After passionate addresses by members of the community, Mayor Soglin and council members, the council voted 15-1 against the legislation.
Community members who spoke in opposition to the legislation cited the recurring concern that this is not a solution that addresses the actual homeless issue in Madison. Karen Andro spoke on behalf of the First United Methodist Church, arguing the legislation penalizes people for not having a home.
“We need not punish those who have nothing by decision makers who have homes,” Andro said.
Local leaders gather to speak against banning homeless from city buildingsLeaders of the religious community in Madison gathered on the steps of the City County Building Thursday to condemn new legislation Read…
Brenda Konkel, a homeless advocate, spoke about a recent increase in the number of days that people are allowed to stay at shelters. The shelter options for women are especially limited, she said.
Frequently, shelters must resort to a lottery system that determines who is able to stay at shelters on a particular night.
“I am urging you to look beyond this and look to bigger solution and take some sort of immediate action about this, because it’s getting cold,” Konkel said.
In response, Soglin cited numerous attempts by the city to better the living conditions for homeless individuals living around the City-County building. A porta potty that he had placed near the building was used for sex and taking drugs, as was the storage facility built behind the Madison Municipal Building, he said.
Although Soglin continued to express his concern about the well-being of the homeless individuals in Madison, he also stressed the importance of the listening to the needs of the other citizens of Madison.
“The reason our society works is because the vast majority of the time, its self-compliant,” Soglin said. “We have a situation here in the heart of downtown Wisconsin where that kind of self-regulation isn’t taking place. For us to ignore that is to ignore our responsibility to the 245,000 people and the individuals who are participating in this type of activity.”
Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, was the only vote in favor of this legislation. He agreed with Soglin on this point, stating that this legislation was a matter of public safety. He cited multiple instances of violence, public defecation and aggressive panhandling that burdened Madison Police Department and downtown businesses.
Ald. Amanda Hall, District 3, was one of the last alders to speak before the vote. She described the sadness that many people experience when they see people who are homeless, and suggested that could encourage people to simply want the homeless to stay elsewhere.
Again, Hall stressed the importance of focusing on solutions that work toward helping the homeless and finding them housing.
“The attitudes behind this proposal are not about helping the homeless or changing their homeless status, they are making a population go away that people don’t want to look at and people don’t want to deal with,” Hall said. “That is so unworthy of this great city.”