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Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Occupy Madison organizer Dave Peters addresses the City Council Tuesday ahead of a vote that ultimately decided against extending Occupy’s camping permit.

City Council moves for Occupy Madison camp to disperse by April 30

The Occupy Madison encampment was denied an extension on their permit by the City Council Tuesday, meaning that the camp will be forced to disband on April 30.

The initial resolution to temporarily extend the city’s allowance of the camp was meant to give city and county officials additional time to address the problem of homelessness that, with the number of homeless campers, has become part of the group’s agenda.

While omitting the decision to grant an extension to the Occupy camp, the revised resolution eventually passed will create a Homeless Issues Committee consisting of city officials and current or formerly homeless persons to devise ways the city can improve its social service offerings.

According to the resolution, Madison’s homeless services system was forced to turn away 2,000 individuals due to a lack of resources in 2011.

That figure doesn’t include those, like Occupy residents Harold Morgan, Janine Burke and Brent Nelson, who have problems with the system and choose not to partake in it.

“There are too many rules in the shelters,” said Morgan, who suffers from seizures. “Without that tent, I would probably be dead today.”

Nelson, who said he and Burke had attended to Morgan during several of his fits, agreed. “A lot of these people won’t go to the shelters because they are too hectic,” Nelson said. “Here, we’re one big family.”

To organizer Jen Thompson, the camp has been more effective than shelters in empowering individuals.

“Receiving [shelter], with rules and conditions, is very different than having to take responsibility and influence for your environment,” she said. “It’s a whole new way of looking at things.”

While not discounting the achievements of the Occupy community, Mayor Paul Soglin opposed the resolution because it would endorse illegal use of the city-owned land and is a financial burden on the city’s emergency services.

Ald. Lisa Subeck, District, 1, was hopeful for the future, despite the fact that the initial resolution she co-sponsored was rejected.

“I hope this body can have the same sense of urgency [in addressing homelessness] even if we don’t have the Occupy site there to remind us,” Subeck said.

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According to Brent Nelson, come April 30, the former residents of the encampment will do just that.

“They’ll scatter like ants,” he said. “They’ll have them sleeping in every doorway, every alley.”

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