Video: Occupy Madison rally addresses stigma, lack of services facing homeless population

Jeremy EvensonJeremy EvensonAround 70 people came to the rally at the City-County Building on March 8 to call for better services for the homeless. Occupy Madison organized the rally.

“We’re trying to get the city to recognize and we’re trying to get the county to recognize… housing is a human right,” said Jeremy Evenson, member of the Occupy Madison Board of Directors.

As a movement, Occupy Madison is hoping to draw attention and solutions to the problems of homelessness. It started as an encampment on Madison’s east side in the fall of 2011, and has moved to various locations around the city. Organizers are currently trying to buy a building to house more homeless in Madison.

“We trying to get a dialog with the city, at least sit down with them, talk to them about getting some serious solutions,” said Evenson.

According to Porchlight website, over thousands of people experience homelessness in Madison each year.  Although the number of homeless has decreased since 2008, more than 2000 people are still turned away from shelters because of lack of space.

Jesus Rodriguez has been homeless for three months, since he lost his house in a fire last year. Currently he stays at the shelter by the capitol, he said. Rodriguez said that the city shelter does not provide the services he needs and many people are on the waiting list to even get in the door.

“They need a good program. They need people to support people mentally and emotionally through what they’re going through,” Rodriguez said, “because the people they got right now [are] not capable [of offering that support].”

The Porchlight website lists many reasons for homelessness, including poverty, addiction, or mental illness. For some like Debbie Williams, homelessness is a temporary crisis.

“I don’t understand why they, [the protesters], are having this rally talking to homeless people when we should be talking to them, [the city],” said Williams.

As a college graduate, Williams owned her own business for five years. She is temporarily homeless because she can’t find a job.

Other local residents came to support the rally. C.J. Terrell, a Madison resident and candidate for Dane County Supervisor in District 1, attended.

“Being homeless does not mean you’re nobody,” said Terrell. “It could be you. It could be me.”