If you want to provide space for homeless people to sleep overnight in their cars, where would that space be? That’s a good question with no clear answer.

Members of the Janesville City Council have been asked to make a decision on the homeless overnight parking question. The city administration initially proposed designating Palmer Park for hosting homeless people overnight in their cars.

Palmer Park was recommended because it has easy access to I-90/39, the bathrooms are open 24/7, and the parking lot is not adjacent to residential housing.

I noticed during initial consideration of the issue that several council members praised the idea and focused more on assistance for the homeless and less on the location. I also recall several council members having no problem with the Palmer Park location.

However, an immediate outcry surfaced from east side residents. A “Save Palmer Park” group was formed. “Save Palmer Park” implies that homeless people there overnight in cars would destroy the park. Why would establishing an overnight homeless parking lot destroy the park?

Other people I talked to were willing to wager real money that homeless overnight parking would never, ever be in Palmer Park or anywhere near it.

I was told homeless overnight parking was not consistent with the Palmer Park area of the city. So, what part of the city is consistent with homeless overnight parking?

Or, is opposition to Palmer Park another chapter in the east versus west battle that’s been going on for generations in Janesville?

In the past, it was the Fisher Edition on the city’s southwest side versus Harmony Circle on the east side, the south side business district versus the Janesville Mall on the east side and Craig High School on the east side versus Parker (Cow Pie) High out west—way out west.

As soon as the backlash over Palmer Park surfaced, alternative sites were recommended. Traxler Park has emerged as the most likely spot.

What, if any, effect would overnight homeless parking at Traxler Park have on the evening Rock Aqua Jays water ski shows? What if homeless families would like to attend the shows? What effect, if any, would overnight homeless parking in Traxler Park have on the ARISE downtown revitalization project just a few blocks down the street?

Is this an issue of helping the homeless as long as they are not in our area of town?

I have heard the best bet on where to locate the facility is somewhere on the southwest side of the city, probably Rockport Park.

Why?

I’m not sure, but I hope this is not another east side-west side issue. Janesville has been plagued with east-west battles for decades. Reasonable and rational discussions about where facilities should be located are long overdue.

I hope the cynics who believe that all good things in Janesville will always be located on the east side and so-called undesirable facilities and events located elsewhere are proven to be wrong.

Stan Milam, a Janesville native, worked for 40 years for Bliss Communications. He now is a news reporter for Big Radio stations.

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