Advocates see opportunity to help homeless people by allowing them to sleep in their cars

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) — People in Janesville have been uneasy for weeks about a proposal to allow homeless people to stay in their cars overnight in Palmer Park. Wednesday night, they had a community meeting to talk over their concerns.

“We can disagree without being disagreeable, and we can have a civil conversation,” said Marc Perry, Director of Planning and Development for Community Action Incorporated, who facilitated Wednesday’s conversation.

With roughly 350-400 homeless people throughout Rock County and not enough shelter beds, Perry thinks the proposal is a good idea — though he recognizes peoples’ concerns.

“People always have safety concerns, and also concerns about their property, wanting to make sure the park is still a safe place,” he said.

The proposal would change an ordinance allowing people to stay in their cars in the park between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Perry says it gives them a safe place to stay as well as potential access to help they need.

“It is an opportunity to engage people who are homeless, and in an area where a number of organizations provide services, actually get to them for a change as opposed to trying to search throughout the county to find them,” he said.

Richard Gruber, Janesville city council president, attended Wednesday night’s community meeting and says providing services is a deal maker.

“Without the benefit of some amount of case management and intervention by helping agencies, it’s a wasted opportunity,” Gruber said.

Perry said that with help from police and outreach organizations, the community can stay safe.

“There are a number of reasons people are homeless to begin with,” he said. “So that’s one of the ways to connect with them and find out what the cause or causes are, and address those.”

Perry expects the City Council to revisit the ordinance again next month.

Andrew Merica

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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