In my last post, I outlined the degradation of life in downtown Madison caused by what liberals like to call "homeless men" who are, in actuality, vagrants. Fred Mohs does not pick fights willy nilly. He is a businessman, and their credo is to go along to get along, where possible.
But he is the first high-profile person to say "enough is enough":
- In the March 11 edition of the Wisconsin State Journal, Susan Lampert Smith drew the connection between the murder on State Street of a footloose out-of-towner (a kind of urban Into the Wild) and...
- ...the arson of St. Raphael's Cathedral. They burned down the cathedral!
- There are indications that the man killed in his home along Monona Bay was done in by a vagrant.
- Now, add to that the murder of 21-year-old Brittany Sue Zimmerman in her apartment on West Doty Street on April 2.
- And the on-going occupation of Brittingham Park that has the libs along Monona Bay exasperated.
But those are only among the more sensational depredations attributed to vagrancy. They steal the headlines from the steady drip drip drip of fear and intimidation caused by vagrants -- no, not every homeless person. But enough to make the judgment that what we are doing with the homeless attracts and supports a lifestyle that is sometimes criminal and usually anti-societal.
I asked Fred Mohs to describe the problem in his own words. Here is his response:
We have lost freedoms
Twenty years ago, women could walk around downtown Madison at night and feel quite safe. Now the police are advising women to walk in pairs between the MATC ramp and the Overture. We have lost many of our freedoms because of fear and misbehavior.
Here is an example. Two weeks ago, I was leaving a meeting at 222 West Washington Avenue and was walking from West Wash toward the main library. Across the street, coming up past the Hovde Building was a young women in her thirties, with a long coat, high heels and little brief case. Around the corner from West Wash came a homeless person with a big puffy coat, stocking cap pulled down almost over his eyes and confronted her just outside the Fairchild Street entrance to the Hovde Building.
He put out his hand and stood in front of her. She tried to move to one side, he moved with her. Then she moved again, and he again moved with her. Then he started to move her backwards, threateningly asking for money. I started to come across the street to help her. The homeless man looked at me and the young woman took advantage of that diversion to duck under his arm and scamper up the street. I followed the homeless man who then went into the city library.
Walk this way for safety
This is just a little incident, but it happens way too often and changes people's behavior. The next week, I was also leaving 222 West Washington at 4:30 in the afternoon. There were about 100 homeless men congregating in front of the Hovde Building waiting to cross the crack in the sidewalk that they are not permitted to cross until 5:00. At the same time, a woman came out of 222 with me. She walked up to the corner and crossed over to the WHEDA side. As I rounded the corner of Grace Church, I saw that she was now crossing in front over to the Lorraine. By the time I got to my office, I looked around and I saw her crossing the street at First Federal coming north on Carroll Street. She had taken that long route just not to have to walk through the knot of homeless in front of the Hovde Building.
How can anyone think that this is ok? Little by little our ability to enjoy our downtown is being eroded by a population that has a significant number of people who at some time during the day do something that almost no one else would do. This is costing us. To a large degree these people are transients. They come from somewhere and eventually drift off to somewhere. There are a few that stick around, but they are not allowed to stay in the shelters for more than thirty days, so they must actually go somewhere else. The fact is that while they are here, too many of them participate in negative behavior. They get drunk, get high, aggressively pan handle and generally make a mess with public urination and worse. We could have 2,000 hotel guests in Madison with almost no problem, and yet only a couple hundred homeless costs the City big time.
Summer is the worst time
The sad truth is that a great deal of suburban Dane County thinks that having things like this go on in downtown Madison is ok. Because it is some sort of a ghetto or skid row. They will come down to the Farmer's Market when visitors overwhelm the smaller number of homeless and other individuals who come down here to do bad things and think this is all ok. When I talk about the homeless, I am talking about them as a group and not as individuals. Mixed in with the bad performers, are people who are trying hard, people who are totally pathetic of issues of mental illness and addiction and some men who are just lazy, but really do not do anything all that bad. But as a group, they are a problem.
As I mentioned to you before, the major tenant at Manchester Place required that the parking ramp be secured because their employees have been confronted by aggressive panhandling homeless when they came up to their cars after working late. The homeless used the stairwells as bathrooms and to some degree the ramp turned into a "hobo jungle" at night. Besides the $136,000.00 cost of securing the parking lot, the Overture Center lost a source of free parking for people who are attending at night. Because many of the homeless do not like living in the shelters, they tend to camp out during the summer. That is why the First Methodist Church shelter is not used during the summer. This is actually the worst time. Now the homeless are camping along the lake, sleeping on grates, finding places in garages or backyards, or front porches, under cars, and anyplace else you can think of. They will decide to camp out between the outer doors and the secured apartment houses.
How can they do this?
No more enabling
People are coming and going and there they are sleeping with their camping gear making everyone feel very uncomfortable. In order for the police to be able to ticket them, apartment owners have to have a sign that says no trespassing in the vestibule. Now that looks great! A tenant has guests coming and you have to have a big sign in the vestibule that says no trespassing. My point is that little by little all of this is costing everyone who wants to make downtown Madison beautiful, safe, enjoyable place.
None of the suburbanites who are supporting the shelters would put up with the behavior that the shelters are causing for one minute in their own neighborhoods. On the other hand, they just cannot give up the good feeling that they are helping the needy. My main point is that the needy can be helped in a way that it is better for them if the supporters of the homeless shelters can grasp the fact that everything they are doing is not a good thing.
Previously on Blaska's Blog
Let's all say it together: Fred Mohs is right about vagrancy.