© Pat Schneider
Lockers on the front porch of Konkel's North Hancock Street house.
Brenda Konkel, a vocal Madison advocate for the homeless, and her partner, Robert Bloch, are facing potential fines of up to $300 a day if they don't stop allowing homeless people to sleep and store belongings in lockers on the porch of their North Hancock Street house.
After a complaint from a neighbor, the city of Madison's Building and Zoning departments sent the couple notices of violation
about the lockers, sleeping bags and other gear stored alongside the house, and people sleeping on the porch.
"The issue with the lockers is silly because all sorts of people store things on their property outside, and this is because the people who are storing the stuff don't live here. But I don't understand how this is a zoning violation," said Konkel, a former Madison City Council member who works as executive director of the Tenant Resource Center.
People who are sleeping on the porch have nowhere else to go, she said.
"They have zoned homeless people out of everywhere. If they have no more days in shelter left or can't get in that night, there's no legal place to go," said Konkel.
She worked with members of Occupy Madison a couple of years ago as they tried without success to get city approval to erect a homeless encampment and was instrumental in the group's success in getting zoning approval for a village of "tiny houses" now under construction on the city's east side.
Madison Zoning administrator Matt Tucker said that only people who are part of a dwelling unit - who have access to and share the interior for housekeeping services - can legally elect to sleep outside of a dwelling unit in the city. A few such cases, perhaps involving people living in RVs on someone's property, come up each year, he said, and the zoning code is enforced.