Occupy Madison received emergency funding from the Madison Common Council Tuesday to create a temporary tiny village on Aberg Avenue. This village is meant to provide shelter for the homeless community as winter approaches and the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread.
The Occupy Madison tiny house village is a cooperatively run and self-governing organization, according to the Occupy Madison website. Staying at the house is free for those who are accepted, but active participation in the village — including some form of financial support — is expected.
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In an email statement to The Badger Herald, Occupy Madison co-President Brenda Konkel explained the need for these shelters and why the project was rushed.
“This project is rushed because we expected the city and county to have a better plan for winter, but with the proposal to kick people out of the parks, the men’s shelter deal falling through and winter coming, we felt like we needed to do something,” Konkel said in an email statement.
Occupy Madison has successfully created several villages on the East Side. This organization aims to add 28 more villages or Conestoga huts to Aberg Avenue with the new funding, according to the Capital Times.
Since the Common Council passed emergency funding for the creation of more tiny house properties, Occupy Madison can begin using the land for this village immediately, according to the Cap Times. This village hopes to provide additional shelter to Madison citizens in need as the weather gets worse, Konkel said.
“These villages give people a non-congregate/individual space to keep warm. The houses have electricity and heat,” Konkel said. “The building will have restrooms and we are adding showers, laundry and a non-commercial kitchen.”
The passed resolution allows Occupy Madison to obtain this land and create the village until June 1, 2021. After this date, Occupy Madison will either have to remove the property or acquire permanent zoning approval, according to the Capital Times.
Occupy Madison understands the need for community support to stay located on Aberg Avenue in the future, Konkel said.
“So far the neighborhood, while initially surprised, has been pretty supportive. No one showed up to oppose the temporary zoning and we’ve heard very few negative comments,” Konkel said. “We hope to have the tinier houses and renovations done by the end of the year.”
The University of Wisconsin BIPOC Coalition also advocated for the passage of the resolution at the Common Council meeting. In a statement to The Badger Herald, the BIPOC Coalition said they want to see further action from the council to ensure long-term housing for all of Madison’s community members.
The BIPOC Coalition said Occupy Madison still needs additional funding for the project, and the County Health and Human Needs Committee should provide a grant to the organization in its meeting this Thursday.
“Homelessness is a public health crisis independently, exacerbated by COVID-19, making the upcoming winter even more dangerous for our community members experiencing homelessness,” the BIPOC Coalition said in the statement. “The Council’s vote in support of the Temporary Tiny House Village is only one of the steps the Council must take to end homelessness in Madison.”
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In the statement, the BIPOC Coalition also said they will not stand for the continued criminalization of homelessness as well as over-policing of those communities.
The BIPOC Coalition encouraged students to stand up and speak out in local governmental issues to ensure affordable housing becomes a reality.
“Student involvement in city-level affairs is powerful, and we, the BIPOC Coalition, encourage more students to be active in municipal government,” the BIPOC Coalition said. “Affordable housing for all is possible in Madison.”
A community meeting is scheduled for Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. to learn more about this proposal, according to Occupy Madison. This meeting will be held online and individuals interested in attending may join using their smartphone, computer or tablet.
This piece was updated on Oct. 21 at 10:28 p.m. to reflect a statement from the UW BIPOC Coalition.