EUGENE, Ore. — The Eugene City Council moved to approve two homeless camping sites, and one could be up and running in the next few weeks.
One of the locations approved is a patch of land close to the railroad tracks near Northwest Expressway and Chambers Street. The other site is near Garfield Street and Roosevelt Boulevard.
Even though the city council came to a decision Monday night, SLEEPS members are frustrated with the two approved locations.
“As soon as the weather turns to rain it’s going to be a mud pit, there’s no sidewalks, there’s no access for disabled. It’s right next to the train track with no barrier, it’s unsafe,” said Whoville spokesperson Todd Hurlburt.
Hurlburt says it’s just about what the location doesn’t provide.
“It seems to some of us that they’re putting everybody in a poor neighborhood. They’re putting more homeless into that neighborhood. I kind of look at it as they’re passively supporting discrimination,” Hurlburt said.
But Eugene City Councilor Claire Syrett says the decision Monday night was not about segregating people.
“I don’t think it was any kind of deliberate attempt to group people in a certain part of town, but historically that’s how our social service structure has evolved,” Syrett said.
Another concern brought up by SLEEPS members was the 15-person limit at each site.
“We’re doing our best to start to address the problem. And if we can demonstrate that a small organized camp can run without unduly draining city resources or impacting the surrounding neighborhood, we could set up more around the city,” Syrett said.
“My feeling is since Olympia has made a number of efforts to have camps at first church sponsored, people would stay 90 days and the church would help them get a camp set up, many people felt safe,” said Donna Vankirk.
Vankirk is from Olympia, Washington and is visiting a friend in Eugene. She says the homeless camp can be a good launching point for people to get back on their feet.
“I know a couple, they were for a while, they lost their home and lost their jobs, and then they in a great joyful way said that they were going to go to Yellowstone and they were going to work in one of the lodges there and serve food and do some cooking,” Vankirk said.
A man who used to be homeless says the homeless camps are a smart idea, as long as people are held accountable.
“It’s great. I think it’s amazing that there’s going to be a place. Everybody has the right to have a place to be. I think it has a lot to do with whether people are going to take care of their responsibility, do what they need to do, keep it clean. If you want things, you have to work for them,” said Darrell Bratton, who used to be homeless.
It will be a few weeks before we know which site will be the test pilot. Once that happens, volunteer groups will start recruiting people for the site and figure out how to manage it.