We wanted to share some info with our neighbors and community about the latest news regarding McPike Park. If you don’t live on the east side of Madison, you might not know about the encampment or tent city at McPike Park. If you’re housed and you’ve been “safer-at-home”ing all this time, you may not be aware that many folks have been living outdoors in encampments since the spring of 2020 in a number of locations throughout the city. So first a bit of background info is relevant to know why the SJC is posting an update about a city park.
In May of last year, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway issued an emergency order (referred to as Executive Order #2) allowing temporary encampments of people experiencing homelessness to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. People have been living out of tents and/or other structures like lean-tos at McPike Park since July of 2020 and the SJC has been one of many organizations working to connect folks living there to resources, community and support. Over the past 7 months or so, the numbers have fluctuated greatly at different times with a lot of turn over in population. The majority of people who have lived at the encampment did so for a period of a few weeks or months and have since moved on to temporary or permanent housing, are staying in shelters or county-funded vulnerable population hotels or a different outdoor location. The current number of people living at the park is the lowest it’s been since the first days of the encampment, according to park residents themselves and the outreach teams who have been working with them for several months.
The City of Madison gave official notice on February 4, via a letter and posting of signs, that all personal belongings and structures must be removed from McPike Park by February 28, 2021 and beginning March 1, overnight camping will not be allowed in McPike Park. View the letter here. Alder for District 6 (where McPike is located), Marsha Rummel’s blog has additional updates as well, including details about the McPike Park Response team and the plan for supporting folks who are currently staying at the park.
Obviously there is a lot more to this situation what you just read, and infinitely more perspectives, stories, questions and concerns than would fit in a blog post. But this “situation” is being lived by real people who are entitled to privacy and dignity – and a say in what or how details are shared with the wider community and so it is right that some aspects ought to remain private. But all members of a community should be able to access information to understand how relevant decisions are made and by whom regarding public space, what services are available to those in need, and how our community as a whole resolves conflict, keeps each other safe and looks out for the most vulnerable during hard times. So we hope to help answer questions you may have and provide opportunities for discussion. We made a page on the SJC website dedicated to keeping the community informed about the the encampment at McPike Park where we will continue posting updates, info and resources during this transitional period. We’ll have a section for background on the situation and one for updates, plus additional blog posts. It’s sparse for now, but we will add more soon – and please do not hesitate to reach out and let us know what kinds of things we should include.
Here’s a summary of what’s currently on the McPike Support Page:
How You Can Help
Due to the outpouring of generosity from the community, McPike Park has received an overwhelming amount of donated supplies. While your time and donations are greatly appreciated, often your donations will go to waste if you drop them off directly at the park, due to weather and waste management concerns. On behalf of the Madison Area Coordinated Outreach, we kindly ask community members not to drop off items at the park. If you want to make the biggest impact, please consider a monetary donation so that your support can go towards where it is most needed.
All the groups working with McPike encampment residents will decide collectively how to spend these funds to best support folks staying at McPike so they may find permanent housing options and lead safe and healthy lives.
But I have useful items in excellent condition I want to give to people at McPike, how do I go about that?
If you do have items to donate, you can bring them to the Social Justice Center (1202 Williamson Street). Please email email@example.com or call/text 608-285-2525 to arrange a supply drop off or to learn what kinds of items are most needed and useful for those experiencing homelessness at this time. Any nonperishable food can be put directly in the Willy Street Pantry outside the SJC (corner of Willy and Few) 24-7.
Who has been working to support the people at the McPike Park encampment?
During COVID, there has been a lot of interest, concern and support from all throughout the community for those living at McPike Park. Service providers and community organizations, in association with the Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County and the City of Madison, have been working together throughout the pandemic to get everyone connected to the support and resources they need. There are so many groups throughout the city and county doing great work, but the organizations directly involved in the joint effort to help folks at McPike find sustainable, long-term housing are as follows:
Sankofa Behavioral and Community Health
MACH One Health
Catalyst for Change
Other organizations with the Homeless Services Consortium, including Friends of the State Street Family and Hope’s Home Ministries/First United Methodist Church
and of course many other local groups, neighbors and members of the community!
As stated above, the SJC will collect donated items which will be shared amongst the outreach organizations and we are hosting the McPike Park Support Fund to consolidate our efforts and make it easy to donate so your donation will go where it’s needed most.