EUGENE, Ore. — The Eugene City Council made some big decisions Wednesday about the city’s homeless population and the issues that surround it.
The council approved a third rest stop and decided to shut down the site known as “Whoville.”
The three-part motion passed by a vote of 5 to 2 today. Part of that motion says the city will begin closing Whoville camp no later than April 1 of this year. Not all of the councilors were happy, and homeless advocates say they aren’t either.
Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz suggested the motion, even though he and other councilors don’t like the idea of adding more rest stops.
“Rest stops, although helpful, are for the most parts bandaids for a few,” Ruiz said.
They decided it was necessary.
“Is this the more ideal solution? No it’s not…but it’s practical…virtually no cost, low cost to the city…I think we need to do as many of these as necessary,” said George Brown, Eugene City Councilor.
“Even as we talk about a long-term strategy, there is an immediate issue that needs to be dealt with, and I agree, the Whoville site needs to close,” said Chris Pryor, Eugene City Councilor.
And part of the motion does include closing Whoville with the process starting no later than April 1 of this year. The new rest stop will open at the Northwest Expressway and Chambers Street location that’s been previously identified by council. It will allow up 15 people, which homeless advocates say is not enough.
“The council and the city manager failed to address the most vulnerable people in Whoville. Those who have serious mental health problems…there’s absolutely no provisions for those folks,” said homeless advocate Jean Stacey.
“So these 15 spot rest stops aren’t really feasible in numbers, and in helping them, because a lot of these people want help, but if you drink or do drugs you can’t be there? That’s what they want help for!” said Whoville resident Red.
The other part of the motion says that city council will work with social services to help those living at Whoville transition to other places.
“Even though the council says we want service providers to direct people to services, there are no services,” Stacey said.
Homeless advocates say the council’s plan is not a viable solution. As for the new April 1 deadline, Red said he can’t make any comments yet, but he thinks the word protest comes to mind.
As for when the newest site could be open, there’s no timeline established. Councilors did extend the rest stop ordinance earlier this week. That is now scheduled to sunset in October.