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SLEEPS Protest Causes Safety Concerns

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EUGENE, Ore. — Lane County commissioners say if the recent sanitary concerns weren’t enough at the SLEEPS camp in downtown Eugene, they can now add public access and safety to the list.

Commissioners say they’ve gotten several calls from citizens who felt uncomfortable and even unsafe walking through the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza. They say they’re all for exercising one’s right to freedom of speech, but they question if the setup at the Lane County Public Service Building can still be called a protest.

A fight broke out in the plaza Tuesday afternoon, which was just one instance that left some folks trying to get in and out of the public services building a bit rattled.

Jami Nilson missed the fight, but she says she was subject to others she wished she could have avoided.

“The first man I saw walking across the street to here told me not to look at him because he was crazy. So that was a little shocking at first,” said Nilson.

Lane County commissioners say Nilson isn’t alone in her apprehension; they’ve gotten several calls and e-mails from citizens and employees about similar concerns.

“I’m just kind of tired of hearing from seniors, and women for that matter, who really are not feeling safe coming down to our public service building and from my perspective, that’s absolutely unacceptable,” said Sid Leiken, Lane County Commissioner.

SLEEPS members say they’re not surprised; but they think if people give them a chance, they’d find they’re not trying to hurt anyone and people’s fears are simply a result of a misguided assumptions.

“It’s a little hurtful to just be assumed that we’re, you know, just these terrible people that are going to do bad things or whatever. We’ve been trying to be respectful to keep this walkway completely clear and we’ve been trying to be very welcoming to people coming on the plaza or into the courthouse,” said SLEEPS member Angie Bartow.

Despite that, even those who say they feel for the homeless can’t help but feel uneasy.

“I’m not typically a scared person, but I was scared to walk down the street and I didn’t think I would be because these people, they’re people just like I am so I thought we could all live here together and that there’d be anything to be afraid of, but I was scared,” said Nilson.

Rumors have been swirling that the protesters may be moved out of their other locations, like the Lane County Fairgrounds, but the downtown plaza won’t likely be cleared as soon or smoothly.

County commissioners say an agenda will be out Thursday for a special meeting to take place either next Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss how they can deal with this exact issue.

7 comments

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  1. ahshucks says:

    This Sleep’s is no longer a protest it’s a campground for the homeless. We the tax payer’s have to pay for cleanup and damage these people do. They need to go or our Lane County and City government needs to go. I believe impeachment is in order since you are elected to protect us from the dangers of this group of people.

    1. Rob Molinar says:

      The person above (ahshucks) expresses some popular sentiment that I can understand to a degree. This might be a campground. Someone does have to pay to clean this up, and the overall tax dollar amount (although extremely small) might very well fall on taxpayers. That said, I do believe that most of the cleaning up will be done by the people staying there, including some people who did not make much of a mess at all. The more responsible campers will have an “unfair” burden in cleaning up, but will be willing to do so.

      I think if we ask what the people who have organized this what they would call it, many would say a protest. People in general are not always tight in their organization, be it homeless encampments or local government, so there will be differences in thinking among the people that sleep at the building, as well as among people that walk by or conduct business there. I do not believe that the people that are sleeping, hanging out, or supporting the protest constitute a clear group. Many are in a similar circumstance, but there is nothing about this “group” itself that presents a danger. The easiest way to see this is to go there at least 2 or 3 times (so that one experience doesn’t get extrapolated into a general idea) and say hi to someone that appears fairly receptive. Even if you fumble a bit, if you attempt to start a short conversation or appear friendly (again, however you could do this comfortably), you’ll see that many people will respond favorably. Although some will not give you the time of day because trust is not automatic, experiencing what it feels like to be “with” people instead of feeling apart from “those people” could be important. If you’ve already been homeless or have met many people in homeless situations, I don’t mean to sound “teachy” or “preachy,” so I apologize if I come across that way. Thank you.

  2. Eugene Baby says:

    ENOUGH – OUR CITY OFFICIALS NEED TO DO THEIR JOBS! West 13th is a residential neighborhood with taxpayers who expect the residential zoning to be protected. Get these squatters off the City Easement on 13th. The new fairgrounds squaters don’t pay rent, taxes, or even care about the neighbors in those homes.

    City council, cops, and mayor it is time to your duty and enforce zoning for all neighborhoods – rich and poor in this community. Or, do you expect the rest of us to go over their and clean this out – because it will get very dangerous when we do it.

    Tonight they said ” We consider it our right to sleep in areas of Eugene”. So, I wonder if they camp in richy rich Hendricks park what happens. Or do west Eugene neighborhoods get thrown on the fire because the Mayor and that council wont order their removal now. Stop the appeasment of these criminals taking over our neighborhoods. Tell them NO MORE with a call to your officials.

    PS. How much human poop will you allow in the Amazon? All that area runs into the Amazon, that’s why we can’t have our horses on the fairgrounds property during rain season. Horse crap is bad, but human crap is good in Eugene for this city council and mayor.

  3. Charlene Seaton says:

    I can’t help but just sit here and shake my head as I read about the fear that some have over the SLEEPS encampment. I have encountered more frightening situations walking down many of Eugene’s streets. We have many unhoused and unmedicated people with mental illnesses. How about if we provide for them better? Not all of the unhoused are mentally ill. Many of the housed are. I drive down residential streets and run across very intense domestic disputes. I see them on the streets of downtown, in apartment complexes. My concern in these situations is for the PEOPLE involved. Let’s look at the human problem we have before us. I am more frightened of riding an LTD bus than I am of the people in the SLEEPS movement.

  4. Enough says:

    I was down there on Tuesday afternoon with my granddaughter. It was obvious that 3 people we ran into were homeless, intoxicated and making lewd comments. Two of them had large bottles of beer and were making comments to us and people who even looked over at them. I was concerned for our safety in front of the Court House !!!! They need to respect others even if they can’t respect themselves.

  5. Michael Adams says:

    SLEEPS is all about protesting the Criminalization of Homeless People, due to having nowhere to sleep that is legal and safe. The fact that we are homeless prevents us from obtaining jobs as we do not either have an address, or a phone, or both, to put on the application and employers in a lot of cases are not willing to accept message phones etc.
    The Eugene Mission was found to have 160(give or take) beds. I called them to ask precisely how many beds they have and was transferred to a Voicemail.
    Even if the Eugene Mission has more beds, the number of beds they have is nowhere near the amount needed to house the over 1500 Homeless People that live in Eugene that are documented. This does not include the Undocumented Homeless or children which (strictly estimated) contains probably another 1500 Homeless People.

    @ahshucks:
    Those of us here at the protest site are cleaning up after ourselves and will continue to do so. We have taken and will continue to take measures to clean up after ourselves and others. Our site is clean. If you disagree with us, please feel free to come done and check us out-and let your voice be heard. As a side-note, we our not only cleaning up after ourselves but other citizens and city officials as well(ie, cigarette buts and random trash).

    @Rob Molinar:
    We appreciate your supportive words. We are indeed cleaning up after ourselves, and others for that matter.

    @Eugene Baby:
    Some of us have jobs, believe it or not. People, like myself, just got done living in our car for 2 months while we sorted out housing. We are simply protesting the Criminalization of Homeless People and their Children.

    @Charlene Seaton
    You bring up a very good point, when you say that there are more frightening situations in Eugene. Mentally Ill Homeless People are sometimes downright scary when they get mad! However, the ones that you see on the street are facing the same problem that we are and others added on top of it.

    @Enough:
    With many people comes the difference in opinions and manner of expression. Some are direct and blunt while others are hidden in a play of words. We apologize for any lewdness or fear that may have been caused by our choice of words.
    However, in regards to alcohol or “beer” as you put it, I can assure you that there is none of that in our protest site. We abide by strict no-tolerance rules that we have in place. If indeed there was any of that, it was NOT a part of our protest as we do not allow it whatsoever.

  6. Be the Change! says:

    The city of Eugene has decided not to enforce the illegal camping laws. Now they delivered a potty for the 13th St illegal homeless camp! OUTRAGED!

    Are you a citizen who lives within the laws that doesn’t want a unsafe homeless camp coming to your neighborhood? If your answer is yes – be the change!

    Steps to END illegal homeless camps destroying Eugene:
    1- attend every public meeting – testify & sign up early to roadblock these slackers
    2- send an email to the mayor, the whole council, and the city manager – DEMAND ENFORCEMENTof OUR EXISTING LAWS – especially illegal camping.
    3- call 911 to report the illegal camps set up on 13th st and say you want them arrested

    If our elected & paid officials do not enforce the laws:
    1- at next UO football game gather 35,000 signatures to recall all the city council & mayor.
    2- sign a petition to fire the city manager if he will not instruct city crews to bring in dumpsters to clean the camps out – give them an hour to move on or everything is trash.

    If all of above fails – be an anarchist:
    1-park a running diesel truck on 13th along the squatters camp – smoke them out.
    2- move into the plaza with a bigger tent, an RV or a broken down rig – take the city back
    3- shame officials with our own “protest” tent city on the UO campus during the prestigious track trials, or a football game that has national coverage.
    4- national news might shame them into enforcement – blanket your neighborhood with signs reading: EUGENE HOME4-SALE BECAUSE THE CITY OF EUGENE IS ALLOWING HOMELESS CAMPS IN EASEMENTS – BYE BYE EUGENE
    5- stop paying your city of Eugene portion of your property taxes if they won’t preserve neighborhood safety and zoning by busting illegal camps up.

    post your ideas and maybe we can take our city back!

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