The City of Madison announced Feb. 4 that the Temporary Park Encampment (TPE) at McPike Park will be shut down on Feb. 28, ousting the 40 homeless men, women and couples who are set up there.
City officials are closing the Temporary Park Encampment (TPE) at McPike Park due to the site being in violation of the mayor’s emergency order that outlined rules for such encampments.
The City of Madison officials have decided to close the TPE as the encampment is within 500 feet of residential property, and the inhabitants have also started to burn debris in order to stay warm, which had an "immediate impact" on the surrounding community due to smoke filling up neighbor's homes, according to Ald. Marsha Rummel, Dis. 6.
"This encampment doesn't fit our rules for the temporary encampments that the mayor created earlier this year,” Rummel said.
Rummel also discussed — and wrote about in her blog — how the camp “has really dwindled in numbers” in recent weeks and that the city felt the need to finally shut the camp down for the safety of those struggling with homelessness during the recent cold snaps.
With the closure of the TPE at the end of the month, the encampment inhabitants experiencing homelessness must figure out new spaces to occupy. Single men and women may find refuge at their own genders’ shelter, such as Porchlight’s men's shelter, the city’s temporary men’s shelter at the former Fleet Services Building on the East side and the Salvation Army’s women’s shelter on the East side, according to Madison.com.
There are no shelters that will accommodate a homeless heterosexual couple, meaning that if a couple does not secure a “tiny hut” at the new village on the East side, a hotel room through the funds of the city or a couch with nearby friends or family, they will be forced to live outside in during mid February, Case Manager and Outreach Worker at Porchlight Ben Jackson explained.
Jackson additionally explained that apart from the cold, individuals who are unable to secure a housing situation face other dangers.
“Parks, back alleys, parking lot stairwells ... anywhere that they feel like they will be safe enough to survive the night,” Jackson said. “In the past, we've had instances where gang members were going around and videotaping homeless people that they would beat up on the spot. There's a lot of danger out there, it's not just the cold."
City officials and the local non-profit, the Friends of State Street, have made efforts to help those who stayed in the camp find temporary housing during the cold snap that lasted over the Feb. 12 weekend. However, these arrangements expire on Monday, Feb. 15.
After they are discharged from their temporary housing situation, they will have to figure out where to go next, which may mean trying to set up their tent at a different park. In that instance, people would have to set up their tents on the snow, where their body heat would dissipate into the it and may lead to hypothermia and frostbite, according to Jackson.
"When you close a camp like [this], it doesn't give them housing; it's for the neighbors' benefit, not for the people who are out there," Jackson said. “[The city is] closing because the neighbors don't like it.”
Rummel believes that if the homeless want to establish another camp that is closer to the downtown area, she believes there is room for discussion in the future when the temperatures warm up.
"If there is a desire that we hear that there should be something closer to downtown, we could look at different areas that meet the requirements in the mayor's emergency order #2,” Rummel said. “I think that would be a neat thing. I think residents want to help.”