Occupy Madison isn’t just about the 99 percent. It has become an initiative to house the homeless.
On November 15, the group opened the doors to three “tiny houses” on private land. The buildings were designed to provide housing for four homeless Wisconsinites. Every detail, right down to the paint color, was designed with the tenant in mind and paid for by private donations.
Each home is even pre-decorated for the holidays, complete with lights and a small Christmas tree.
The homes are the unlikely end result of the group’s initial Occupy protest efforts in 2011.
During the protests, Occupy volunteers found many of the city’s homeless people bedding down among the activists every night.
They soon realized many of the people showing up to Occupy meetings were not activists at all, just struggling Madison residents with nowhere else to go.
That’s when an idea began to form.
Although the exchange was initially tense, Occupy volunteers began to understand that many homeless people need a clean place to rest and a safe place to store belongings while heading to a job interview.
Occupy Madison was happy to shoulder that burden for the homeless community.
But, when Occupy packed up in 2012, about 100 people were homeless once again.
And Occupy Madison was determined to do something about it.
Volunteer Luca Clemente says Occupy Madison soon became more of a humanitarian organization, rather than a political one.
He told Al Jazeera, “Occupy Madison evolved into a group based on human solidarity — we don’t care if you’re democrat or republican.”
“The point is do you want to come together to cooperate, to pool your resources, creativity and physical labor to make each other’s lives better.”
The tiny house project was set in motion, resulting in its first completed house last December.
Occupy involved local residents in design and building plans, in hopes they’d be more accepting of low-income housing if they felt personally attached to the project.
With the success of the most recent three tiny houses under its belt, Occupy Madison is dreaming bigger, following in the footsteps of trailblazing cities like Portland and Austin.
Soon, the third wave of Occupy’s project will begin.
The group is hoping to complete six new houses this time around.
The group’s next phase also includes a public laundry facility and bathroom.