Dear Mayor Soglin and Executive Parisi,
This morning, while you drank your coffee and looked over your schedule for the day, Tina and Jennifer were lighting candles-not for aesthetics , but to keep warm in the cars they live in on Union Corners. Duane looked again at the test results he was given that said he has lung disease. He wondered how soon a call to a doctor would be returned on the phone we got for him and if he would be able to actually get any medical care. Sarah sat up and waited for our call, wondering when we would pick her up on Saturday, to relocate her far from her abuser who has threatened to kill her the next time he sees her. Aaron stayed in his tent in a sleeping bag on the hard ground for the 3rd day, hoping his fever would break… hoping we would notice he hadn’t checked in with us for a week and someone would come and check on him, bring him water and something to eat.
Remote campers all over the city living in tents in wooded areas, in cars on side streets, sleeping outside around the square sat up at first light wondering if today would bring them more of the same… not only cold, rain and snow….but illness from being out in this weather. Not only despair from being “stuck” in a nearly impossible situation, but fear of being beaten again, raped again, robbed again without being able to report it to police because being homeless seems to be a criminal act itself.
They work a lot of these people. They paint houses, drive taxis, work as telemarketers and bus tables, they sell papers and work the drive-thru, and when they can’t get that- they do day labor. Many others are disabled and either have too little SSI to pay for an apartment or are constantly getting turned down for it. Even when they have enough, they can’t get into an apartment with a less than perfect rental record in the past 3 years.
You see, the folks camping together at the Occupy site are only a fraction of the people living homelessly around your city who aren’t using any shelter services for various reasons. We want you to understand that we know these people, we have heard their stories…helped them get to the doctor, get employment, get furniture when they finally get into housing, obtain the things they need to stay alive until they can get to the place where they are safer, healthier, and able to make it.
Mayor, you were once defeated for standing up for human rights and trying to give those who would not be heard by our government a voice… I ask you to hear us trying to do the same. We are volunteers from all walks of life and religions: students, United States veterans, retirees, single moms, business owners, we work in the private sector, we are city and county employees, and we work with our homeless.
We ask you to follow the recommendations in the Madison-area Urban Ministry Committee report on Possible Alternative sites for Occupy Madison that the County commissioned. We ask you to fund the warming center and the permanent day center. We implore you to stop passing and enforcing ordinances that make it against the law to be homeless in the city and give realistic options to those who must stay outside until more housing options are available.