Apartment life, Capitol Square, Chiropractor, City Life, City of Trees, Crime, Homeless, Homeless Shelter, Isthmus Daily Page, Madison WI, Metropolitan Place, Panhandling, Personal Health Issues, Police, Poverty, Real Estate Development, State Street, The Isthmus

Gentrification Redux

However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not shun it and call it hard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.

Henry David Thoreau

Some time ago I asked whether or not gentrification was a good thing. Frankly, I think it’s a mixed bag. Our neighborhood is becoming more “foot-friendly” and there are more and more daily services moving into downtown Madison. Gentrification does have its pluses if it is done judiciously.

I recently visited Dr Aaron Abplanalp who has opened up shop at Life City in one of the Metropolitan Place retail spaces. He’s a fine addition to the neighborhood and since I need the services of a chiropractor frequently due to some serious injuries to my back, the convenience of having a good doctor within walking distance is a treasure.

At the same time this kind of rhetoric on the part of developers in the downtown area reported on in “The Isthmus Daily Page in late September just smacks classicism and possibly racism since many of these people are people of color:

Teen center eyed as homeless shelter

Developer calls for moving homeless men off the Square
Vikki Kratz on Wednesday 09/26/2007

Madison developer Cliff Fisher is bothered to see homeless men on the Capitol Square. He wishes they were somewhere else.

“People come here and all they see is people standing around, begging for money,” says Fisher, who owns more than a dozen downtown properties. “We have the most beautiful Capitol, and you see people panhandling.”

Granted it isn’t pleasant to be harassed by homeless people for money but I live in Mr Fisher’s neighborhood. I walk the streets past his developments and I interact with these homeless people. For the most part I don’t see them harassing anyone when they’re turned down politely.

What I HAVE seen are people who are publicly intoxicated or strung out on drugs harassing people. That is a different matter entirely. That is a law enforcement problem.

That they also happen to be homeless is incidental. Those people could be removed from the scene if the police were properly enforcing the law.  If people called and reported the fact that someone who was publicly intoxicated was being a public nuisance the police would have to go out there and do their jobs.  I doubt the Madison Police would have a problem doing that.

For the most part, the Police do take care of the public nuisances as they walk their beat in the downtown area but they can’t be everywhere at once and like naughty children the bad apples in the barrel will wait until the Police have their back turned to act out. When you are being harassed, call the police. Hang around in the vicinity until the cops arrive and point out the bad apple. Take the risk.

Moving the homeless shelters off the square and away from the ritzy condos isn’t going to solve the problem. Do you think these people are stupid? State Street and the Square are their bread and butter. They’ll just walk eight blocks or however far you push them out to get back up here where the cash and the foot traffic is.

Don’t be absurd and think you can get rid of a social problem by trying to hide it, Mr Fisher. Don’t be part of the problem; be part of the solution and help create jobs for these people so they have no need of shelters or begging on the streets of this beautiful city of ours. And don’t be so presumptuous that you forget it is their city too!

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One thought on “Gentrification Redux

  1. I don’t think urging people to use the police force as a proxy to handle ‘bad apples’ really solves the problem of homelessness or drug addiction. It is merely another attempt to push societal problems out of sight instead of trying to confront them on a personal, interactive level (Cliff Fisher and you might have more in common after all). If you truly value your community than you won’t relegate it’s policing to a group that upholds the power structure by treating already disadvantaged people unfairly.

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