Madison alders have overwhelmingly rejected an ordinance to prohibit loitering downtown. Mayor Paul Soglin wanted a one hour time limit on benches, and to prohibit sleeping on sidewalks.
“It’s clear to me, what we should have done was made the proposed fines in these ordinances . . . a penny,” Soglin said. The mayor said the intent of his proposal was “not to impose financial burdens” on homeless individuals, but to give Madison police officers opportunities to protect people.
Soglin reiterated his safety concerns about the homeless, citing an incident witnessed by people who had left a meeting in the City County building last week. It was “a very hostile shouting match between two people who clearly wanted to injure one another,” Soglin said. “There are people in this building who suffer from post traumatic incidents. They’re employees of the city and county.”
Last month, a city-county liaison committee did approve a ban on the homeless sleeping outside of the City County building. That took effect on October 1st. One woman who spoke prior to the vote said the benches “were the last legal place” for the homeless to go. Another man noted that some benches are used by the homeless to store their belongings. “I don’t think packages and bags are why we put the benches out in the first place,” he said.
Tuesday’s city council vote was 15 to 1 against the measure, with Alder Paul Skidmore casting the lone vote in support.
Last month, Dane County accepted offer to purchase a property on the city’s Near East Side for a permanent homeless day resource center. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the center will “provide people a place not just to come in a and stay warm in the winter and cool off in the summer,” but an array of services as well. He expects the shelter will be open by the fall of 2016.