Occupy Madison wants to open house for homeless - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Occupy Madison wants to open house for homeless


MADISON (WKOW) -- Occupy Madison wants to start their own, alternative house for the homeless, but they're asking the city for help to get the ball rolling.

Occupy Organizers say since the county forced them out of Madison, the encampment of homeless people is stranded in Token Creek Park with no access to city services, but they found a spot they think could be their new home.

It's an old office building on Fordem Avenue that the group want to turn into a mission house where people can go to stay, instead of the existing homeless shelters. Eventually, it would run as cooperative housing.

"We're looking at this as a higher quality environment, more manageable and more able to accommodate diverse people than the shelter which is just an open room," says Ed Kuharski, architect for the Occupy Madison House project.

Kuharski says the hope is for a self-sustainable boarding-style house where the residents are also staff: preparing meals, cleaning, maintenance, etc. The OM House would be home to about 20 people at a time, with residents paying no more than $200 a month in rent.

Kuharski says he doesn't expect it to be a permanent home for anyone, but a way to get a homeless person back on their feet. They also plan to have several community service offices to help with employment and health needs.

Organizers say the project will cost nearly $340-thousand. They're asking the city council for a $275-thousand loan to purchase the existing building and renovate it to meet fire codes.

The building lies in Alder Satya Rhodes-Conway's district. She says some residents there have come to her saying they think it's a good location for the house, but she says some business owners have expressed concerns.

"I think that we need more homeless services, we need more places where folks who are currently homeless can be housed under a roof with heat and connection to other services in the community," says Rhodes-Conway.

Rhodes-Conway says she's holding a community meeting on Saturday, so the public can hear more about Occupy's proposal for the site on Fordem Avenue. It will be at 1 p.m. at the James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation on E. Johnson Street.

The proposal was introduced to the city council on Tuesday night. It will be reviewed by a special committee, and could go to vote at the city council later this month.

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