EUGENE, Ore. — The SLEEPS movement continues to grow in downtown Eugene and some of the new campers aren’t even affiliated with the activist group, but they say they also have a message to send.
The activists camping out at Free Speech Plaza say they’re trying to make a statement about their right to sleep in public places without getting kicked out by police. But across the street, there’s another group SLEEPS says is not affiliated with and they’re not necessarily welcoming the addition.
They both say they have a message that needs to be heard. SLEEPS members say their message is simple.
“You know we’re not asking like you need to give us land and this and that you need to let us do this and that we just want it to be safe for people to be able to sleep,” said SLEEPS member Angie Bartow.
Bartow has been camping out with SLEEPS and says it’s not fair that people get kicked off the streets when they’re not doing anything wrong, just trying to get some sleep. But she says it’s hard for them to spread their message and influence county leaders into action when non-SLEEPS members are trying to jump on board.
“It has been a little bit of an issue. We’ve had random people coming in who don’t know what we’re here for or don’t care what we’re here for; they just see that we’re offering food and they think they can come in and get food,” Bartow said.
Bartow says the reality is they’re not just trying to get food, some are using drugs and being violent, which is not a part of their agreement.
“We ask them first, here’s the agreements that we’ve all been abiding by are you willing to do this? If they’re unwilling we do ask that they leave,” Bartow said.
“This side of the street is more for a safe haven that side of the street is more for a message,” said Lori Madrid.
Madrid, who lives across from SLEEPS, says they’re not causing any problems and both groups are camped out for the same reason: they’re homeless.
One SLEEPS member says it doesn’t matter who’s with what group; they need to work together to get their message across.
“As long as the people coming to the plaza are politically active it’s ok if there’s splinter groups and people you know come together and move across the street and move across town, but the umbrella’s big enough that everybody can be underneath it,” said SLEEPS member Tinman.
Tinman also said since the movement is gaining so much momentum and a lot of people are passionate about its message, no one really has to be a set leader. He says it’s controlled chaos right now, and as long as people are out spreading the message that’s what counts.