Janesville proposal attempts to tackle area homelessness

Local News

JANESVILLE, Ill. (WTVO) — The city of Janesville tackles homelessness throughout the county and state.

One proposal caused disagreement between city leaders. The idea was debated at a community meeting Wednesday.

Supporters say the solution makes way for a safe place when shelters are full.

“Homeless individuals in this community are, have been using parks for years as safe havens,” said Marc Perry, Director of Planning and Development for Community Action INC.

In Janesville, community members are working together to find a solution to homelessness in Rock County. One proposal is to allow people living out of a car the ability to park overnight in Palmer Park.

“Historically, it is one of the spaces when we do street outreach that we will find individuals,” Perry said.

“Really wanting to focus in on those individuals who are literally living in their motor vehicles,” said Richard Gruber, resident. “That’s their home address is that old ’68 Buick that they’re driving.”

Palmer Park right off of East Racine Street and Palmer Drive is a big area with playgrounds and a water park.

While the proposal only allows people to stay overnight outside of park hours, community members have still brought some concerns to the table.

“So wanting to make sure the park is still a safe place, wanting to make sure the park is still habitable during the day when community members want to use it and wanting to make sure there isn’t any unwanted or any kind of violence or anything going on illegal in the evening,” Perry said.

The crux of the proposal, allowing people living out of cars to stay at Palmer Park, is that having many homeless people staying in one spot makes them accessible to people and services trying to help them as well.

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

Without the service aspect, residents argue the proposal won’t help the issue long term.

“They just simply won’t work,” Gruber said. “It just does nothing more than put a particular population in an area where frankly isolated and readily identified and that doesn’t serve a positive purpose.”

The proposal is expected to be brought in front of Janesville City Council in July.

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