EUGENE, Ore. — This week’s heavy storms prompted homeless advocates to push for the Eugene City Council to develop a plan to take care of the people who call Eugene’s streets home.
This topic is heating up as the weather gets colder.
At the old city hall on Pearl Street, a memorial is set up for homeless community members who died on the streets this past year. Folks who put it up say city council isn’t working fast enough to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I feel like we dropped the ball last winter on that. When the Washington-Jefferson Bridge encampment was closed disbanded, we promised that we would have those centers open and we didn’t, so I think we seem to be drifting in that direction this winter,” said George Brown.
Homeless advocates agree a failure to act is largely to blame for last year’s 24 deaths. To prove their point, they created this memorial. During Wednesday’s meeting, councilors expressed the same concerns.
“I would say that this particular part of we can’t get it done is just not going to from my point of view isn’t going to cut it…I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’re going to have to come up with some sort of emergency strategy of some kind in case we find ourself in a situation where people are going to need shelter,” said Mayor Kitty Piercy.
But homeless advocates say it’s not an if but a when, and they’re not so sure they believe in the council’s support.
“I think there’s an enormous amount of slow motion on the part of city staff, so I think it’s an act of deliberate stonewalling and apathy,” said homeless advocate and Occupy member Jean Stacey.
The city says that’s just not the case.
“We’re also experiencing need at incredible rates, an incredible amount that’s helping to push that as a time that we’re dealing with diminishing resources, so there are a number of those issues to deal with. It’s not that anyone’s intentionally dragging their feet. It’s that there are a lot of questions raised about this issue,” said Michael Wisth, City of Eugene Grants Manager of Community Development.
In the end, the city council authorized the city manager to spend $225,000 to help tackle some of the issues.
Still, homeless advocates question whether that will be enough and if this is just all too little too late.