Chamber and businesses raise concerns over downtown shelter

City and county leaders met with the chamber on Friday morning to discuss the shelter, which plans to offer overnight camping and services for close to 40 people during the winter months.

Posted: Oct 26, 2018 6:41 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce and some of its members are raising concerns over the city’s plan to put a temporary homeless shelter on 7th Avenue and Pearl Street.

City and county leaders met with the chamber on Friday morning to discuss the shelter, which plans to offer overnight camping and services for close to 40 people during the winter months.

RELATED: EUGENE CITY COUNCIL VOTES TO MOVE FORWARD WITH TEMPORARY HOMELESS CAMP 

Ginerva Ralph of the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts attended the meeting. She said she has concerns over the project and believes it will hurt businesses downtown.

"We have about 250,00 people that come through the Shedd every year, and I'm concerned about their experiences, their safety and their access, along with the welcoming environment of downtown as a whole," Ralph said.

In a statement, Brittany Quick-Warner, the CEO of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, said they support a long-term solution for homelessness, but were not kept in the loop about the temporary shelter.

"We are disappointed that there was not more engagement and outreach to community members, downtown neighbors and businesses before this decision was made," Quick-Warner said.

Eugene City Councilor Alan Zelenka said they've heard concerns about safety before with other projects, but have had success.

"I think there are misconceptions or preconceived notions about what these things are," Zelenka said.

Zelenka said he believes the city is on the way to making real progress when it comes to solving homelessness. He's urging the public to tour other projects like Opportunity Village to get a better understanding of what this shelter will be like.

"It will be well-run, well-managed, clean, attractive and sanitary," Zelenka said. "It will show that these kinds of projects can be done, and they can be done almost anywhere and they need to be done all around the city."

KEZI 9 News reached out the county administrator and the city manager for comment. Both attended the meeting and both said they were not available for an interview.

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