UPDATE (11 a.m.): Eugene police and the city of Eugene are closing Whoville, that illegal campsite at Broadway and Hilyard.
Officers have been out there since 9 a.m. Friday clearing out the site. Officers have taped off the entire site and nearby streets. Traffic is moving slower than usual.
The scene has been pretty peaceful so far. One person–not a camper–was arrested for stepping over the tape line. Others were crying as they packed up their belongings. Most of the campers have been complying.
About 30 people have been living on the publicly-owned land since last fall, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that major decisions were made about what to do with the site. In February, the Eugene City Council voted to close the camp after April 1 and no later than April 15.
Last week, the city reposted reminders, and it chose Friday because there was more staff. There is big police presence there.
Hilyard westbound is blocked at Broadway, and one lane is blocked on Broadway westbound. If you are heading in that direction, be aware there may be traffic.
Police are going to be out there for as long as it takes, so it could be all day.
EUGENE, Ore. – Eugene Police is asking people to avoid the Broadway & Hilyard area Friday morning as they work to vacate a group of people they say have been trespassing since September. EPD says the site at the corner of Hilyard and Broadway is not open to the public and anyone remaining at the site could be charged with criminal trespass which is a jailable offense.
The City Council directed the site be closed no later than April 15 and clearing of the area begin no earlier than April 1. The City of Eugene says their goal is for people “to leave the site voluntarily and to get connected with the services they need to find safe and legal shelter”. Eugene Police says traffic will be restricted at several locations nearby including:
- -All westbound traffic on from Franklin Blvd/Broadway Avenue to Hilyard Street is restricted to one lane only due to the temporary road closure. Travelers are recommended to divert westbound onto 11th Avenue at the intersection of Franklin Blvd. / 11th Avenue.
- -Eastbound traffic on Broadway will not be allowed to turn left (northbound) onto Hilyard Street.
- -Northbound traffic between 11th Avenue and Broadway will only be allowed to turn east or west. No through traffic will be allowed due to the temporary road closure.
- -No eastbound traffic will be allowed at 8th Avenue / Hilyard Street
We have a reporter on the scene. Tune into KEZI 9 News Midday at 11 a.m. for the latest on this on-going situation.
Eugene Police provided the following background about the site and the city’s involvement with the campers housed there:
“The site was first occupied illegally in September 2013. The site was posted as not open to the public and people on the site at that time who refused to leave were warned that they would be subject to prohibited camping citations. After written and verbal warnings, more than 20 citations for Prohibited Camping were issued in September to people refusing to leave the site.
In January 2014, additional written notices and verbal warnings were issued and signs marking the area “No trespassing” were installed. People remaining at the site are and have been subject to criminal trespass charges, a jailable offense.
The City-posted signs at the site were torn down by unidentified individuals. Subsequently, permission was granted by an adjacent business to install metal signage facing the site, and more signs were purchased and installed. Those signs were also torn down.
Also in January, the City provided dumpsters at the site so people there could begin to clean out trash and leave with their belongings. Since that time, staff has checked the dumpsters daily and they have been serviced at least once a week or more as needed. A fence was added at that time to contain expansion and make the site’s closure obvious.
Last week, on March 27, the City re-posted notices that the property is not open to the public and that the clearing and clean-up of the area would begin after April 1.
Since this site was first occupied, a police liaison has continued to meet on a regular basis with the group’s representatives. CAHOOTS and other social services have been checking in frequently with trespassers in coordination with City staff. Providing access to human services and a peaceful resolution have been the central aim of these planning measures.”
Eugene Police provided the following analysis of the conditions in and around site:
“An analysis of conditions in and around the camp found that since the camp was first established, quality of life crimes and calls for police service increased in the area. These calls included complaints about open fires and loud disputes inside the camp, syringes found in the area, injured subjects, robbery, theft, assaults, disputes between campers and passers-by, and damage to neighboring businesses and properties. Calls about traffic hazards and crashes near the site also increased. Area businesses reported a decrease in both patron business and income, and an increase in quality of life crimes or anti-social behavior.
In contrast, the community-managed rest stop sites and Opportunity Village provide legal and safer places for people to be. These legal camping sites are managed by community organizations that provide essential services and oversight. They also have clear rules that help ensure the health and safety of people at the site as well as reduce its impact on its neighbors.”
Eugene Police provided the following list of goals and next steps for the City:
“The City’s goal has been for people to leave the site voluntarily and to get connected with the services they need to find safe and legal shelter. The City has and continues to coordinate with a number of local social service agencies to help people transition from the camp. Examples include the opening of two rest stops at 1) Garfield and Roosevelt, and 2) Northwest Expressway and Chambers. These are being managed by Community Supported Shelters.
Volunteer sponsors have stepped forward to manage a third rest stop site proposed near Leo Harris Drive. The City hopes to sign an agreement with the site managers/sponsors in the next couple days. Including the two open rest stops and Opportunity Village, more than 60 legal camping options have been created over the past year. The third site will add legal camping sites for up to 15 more people.
The Eugene Mission and the expanded car camping program managed by St. Vincent DePaul are also available to campers in addition to other social service venues on a case-by case basis.
While these efforts cannot solve the challenge of homelessness in our community, they are a concerted effort to help vulnerable individuals through hard times, and to provide an alternative to illegal behavior. The City Council and staff continue to try to balance the needs and views of all parts of our diverse community, to find options for vulnerable people while also addressing health and safety concerns of the entire community. “