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La Crosse committee hears from unsheltered as it debates homeless camping on city land



Homeless line the back of Cameron Park on July 26, 2023.

A remedy for reducing homeless camping in La Crosse will be up for a city council vote next week.

A plan, however, to limit the camping time in any single spot to just 12 hours was defeated by a 3-2 vote in committee Tuesday.

The Judiciary and Administration Committee heard from some who have been camping. One speaker, named Brad, said he has camped at Houska Park and other places, then went “to the parking ramps and to the bridges, and now I got pushed out of there with the fences, and ended up on the north side of Riverside Park.”

Brad added that he and others were pushed to that area, too, “and now you’re pushin’ us out of there, after goin’ through a rough winter.”

He spoke positively about how police have treated the campers but he was frustrated that he couldn’t get to talk with the mayor on the phone.

Mayor Mitch Reynolds said at the meeting the city is making progress on trying to end encampments but told council members that they must decide on whether to impose a time limit on those campers.

The plan would require a camper to relocate at least 500 feet away after 12 hours on one spot.

“Twelve hours was the decision that we came to with the help of the legal department,” Reynolds said. “This appears to be best practices. Five hundred feet appears to be generally what you would consider to be a best practice. It’s not an exact science.”

Reynolds added that La Crosse is trying to follow examples set by cities in other states, including Washington and Oregon.

The mayor says the ultimate decision on homeless encampments has to be made by the city council. The time limit proposal goes to the full council for a July 11 vote.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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  1. Kevin

    July 3, 2024 at 6:19 am

    First off – it isn’t camping. Quit calling it camping. It is residing, it is squatting, it is occupying, this park, that taxpayers pay to keep up, whether the taxpayers use it prolifically or not, is where they are residing. Start treating the folks that live in these places like residents. I would venture to say if the property I were residing in was a rental and looked like the sh-t holes that these parks and parcels become, the landlord would be fined and my lease as a renter would be terminated, evicted! If it were my own property I would be fined, possibly even condemned, and that would be that. As a city employee, elected or not elected, do your jobs, keep the property in good working order! Enforce the laws that would be enforced upon the general populace of tenants, landlords and property owners. Quit finding excuses for leniency, compassion is one thing, door mat mode is quite another!

  2. walden

    July 3, 2024 at 10:00 am

    Libs created this mess.

    First by de-institutionalizing the mentally challenged decades ago. And more recently by allowing drugs to cross Biden’s secure border in massive quantities.

    350,000 dead by drug overdose on Biden’s watch. Record homeless on Biden’s watch. More young people presented with the opportunity to ruin their lives with drugs on Biden’s watch. And WIZM thinks Biden should stay in the race.

    Why isn’t the local press updating the community on drug overdoes any longer?

  3. nick

    July 3, 2024 at 10:28 am

    I am beyond sick and tired of hearing about this problem. California spent 24,000,000 billion on the homeless over four years; cannot account for how much progress they made; cannot account for the money; and have 30,000 more homeless that before.
    A poll was taken within the last two years and 55% of the homeless wanted to remain homeless. California, of course, is the victim of their own stupidity and progressive ideas. A lot of businesses fled downtown San Francisco because of it.

    The media, of course, protects them by not saying much about it.

  4. Roy

    July 3, 2024 at 12:05 pm

    Isn’t it rich to allow “testimony” from squatters at a City meeting? Brad, the long-term squatter, complains that the City keeps moving him around. Seems that if he began this saga at Houska 3 years ago, he’s had plenty of time to turn his life around and go forth and squat no more.
    But, City officials humor him and listen attentively, afraid to do what must be done:serve the taxpayers by evicting these parasites from public lands and use the landmark recent Supreme Court ruling that gives them unquestioned authority to do so. Otherwise, resign your position. You have no backbone.

  5. walden

    July 6, 2024 at 5:44 pm

    Check out the person peeking over the top of the electrical cabinet in the photo. I wonder what he she is doing back there.

    In other news, that looks like my missing blue bicycle in the photo. Keep it.

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