Skip to main content

More community support needed for people who have no shelter. June 6, 2024 ESTHER Press Conference

Here is June 7th story from Civic Media about the press conference  

Advocacy groups say Oshkosh homeless told to “Move Along.”

by Lisa M. Hale from Civic Media

OSHKOSH, WI – (WISS) – Shelters are full. Housing is unaffordable. And the Oshkosh homeless do not have a safe place to sleep. Law enforcement ask the community to “Move along,” prompting action from social justice groups, churches, and community advocates.

First Presbyterian Church in Oshkosh recently offered a safe space for the homeless, said Pastor Deb Swets.  However, the City of Oshkosh told the church it was violating a zoning code by operating an “unauthorized campground.” 

“First Presbyterian Church is more than willing to be fined to do what is right in providing temporary refuge for people with nowhere else to go,” said Swets during a press conference. “We believe that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect no matter their circumstances. And we believe that we are called to help care, especially for the most vulnerable people in our community.”

Jennifer Verderami, a housing advocate with social justice organization ESTHER said there has been an increased police presence outside the Orrin King building on Algoma in Oshkosh, used for years as a safe space for Winnebago County’s homeless. She said law enforcement demands the unhoused to “move along.”  The Orrin King building has grates that have provided a safe, dry, warm area for the unhoused to sleep until recently.   

   Click below on "read more" to see the rest of the news story.

“Out of sight does not equal a solution,” said Verderami. “Increasing laws targeting the homeless have coincided with the growing numbers of people experiencing homelessness.”

Verderami said between 2006 and 2019 the number of regulations prohibiting camping, resting, or loitering has almost doubled. Unhoused individuals risk being cited or arrested, exacerbating their already precarious positions. 

“Yet, there is no open space for our community members to “move along” to in Winnebago County,” ESTHER said in a written statement. “Our city and county need to provide more support for unhoused members of our community, and until they do, they need to stop asking folks to “move along” from the safe spaces that communities like First Presbyterian Church have willingly offered.” 

Katie Olson, ESTHER Executive Director, said displacing people who have found a safe place to rest makes matters worse for the unhoused and the community at large.

“Move Along orders and camp eviction without placement amplifies risk of sexual assault, theft, and violence by forcing people to move into unfamiliar areas, and straining relations on the street,” said Olson.

Oshkosh homeless seek solutions

Verderami said ESTHER asks governmental bodies and community to come up with funding to create more shelter beds in the community. They’d also like more outreach to provide services and help to the unhoused.

“It’s a really complex issue, and we don’t pretend to have all the solutions,” said Verderami. “This is why everybody needs to get to the same table and have conversations to see what can become. This is not something that one organization, or one county executive, or one police department is going to solve.”

Share this