The not-in-my-backyard protests on Janesville’s east side are having their intended effect.
City officials seem to be backing down from designating Palmer Park as a site for overnight parking for the homeless. Officials are now eyeing Traxler Park.
We’ve frowned on the fear-mongering employed by some east-siders (“Save Palmer Park,” their lawn signs declare) to try to kill this proposal. They have injected emotional appeals into a debate that demands well-reasoned arguments.
Allow us, then, to make the reasonable case for selecting Traxler Park over Palmer Park.
It’s centrally located and closer to the police station. It’s also farther from the Interstate, which some people worried would attract the out-of-town element to Palmer Park.
From a security standpoint, Traxler is adequately suited, Police Chief Dave Moore told The Gazette. It would be “a little easier for us to patrol,” he said.
One thing Palmer Park has that Traxler doesn’t is Wi-Fi access to connect a security camera. But a connection could be installed at Traxler if needed, Moore noted.
Regardless of Moore’s or other officials’ opinions, the Traxler Park proposal is likely to fail if a tidal wave of opposition floods City Hall on Monday, when the city council plans to discuss and possibly vote on overnight parking.
This issue has sadly exposed many Janesville residents as fearful, ignorant and shortsighted. Many people claim to want to help the homeless, but many also don’t want the homeless near them, though the Palmer Park site sits several hundred feet from the nearest residential property line.
Some east-siders apparently need at least 2.7 miles—the distance from Palmer Park to Traxler Park—of separation between them and the homeless. One east-sider, Matt Arthur, offered a candid assessment of the two sites when asked by a Gazette reporter visiting Traxler Park last Sunday.
“I’d rather have them over here than at Palmer (Park),” Arthur said.
His reasoning was simple: “Because I live over at Palmer,” he said.
We hope Traxler Park’s neighbors and stakeholders, namely the Rock Aqua Jays, show a little more openmindedness and tact than exhibited by some Palmer Park neighbors.
As a community, we should be making distinctions between the different types of homelessness. We should remember the homeless are real people, each with a unique story.
Moore said he sees a difference between what he calls the “chronic homeless” and the “situational homeless,” and many people living out of their vehicles fall into the latter category.
They’ve fallen into homelessness not willfully but through unfortunate events, and their circumstances make them more likely to embrace outreach efforts and seek out permanent housing. Designating a safe place to park overnight won’t solve their problems, but it might make their lives a little less stressful and give them the respite they need to figure out their next steps.
Traxler Park’s neighbors and stakeholders have an opportunity to show maturity and compassion through this latest proposal.
They can do better than what we’ve seen so far from the Palmer Park constituency.