Bill protecting homeless campers divides Eugene residents

House Bill 3115 would allow homeless people to sit, lie, sleep and keep warm and dry in public places without facing punishment.

Posted: Jun 10, 2021 6:35 PM
Updated: Jun 11, 2021 8:52 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Eugene residents are sharing their thoughts after a bill affecting the homeless population passed in the state legislature this week.

House Bill 3115 is headed to Gov. Kate Brown. It would allow homeless people to sit, lie, sleep and keep warm and dry in public places without facing punishment.

RELATED: OREGON LEGISLATURE APPROVES MEASURE TO PROTECT HOMELESS CAMPERS

Springtree Apartments in Eugene is located across the street from one of the most prevalent campsites on 13th Avenue and Chambers Street. Janice Workman, the apartment's manager, said they've seen negative impacts of homelessness.

"Trash is a big thing, trespassing is a big thing. We've had thefts from vehicles and from patios," said Workman. "I've had people who made appointments and drive by and call and say they are no longer interested."

People living in the apartments said they've also had negative experiences.

"At any given time, people are yelling, screaming, swearing," said resident Peter Strawbridge. "We care about homeless people here. We know Eugene is a compassionate place to be in particular. But there has to be a limit."

MORE: POTENTIAL EUGENE HOMELESS CAMPING/PARKING SITES REVEALED

However, advocates believe this legislation is an important first step to solving the homeless crisis. Heather Sielicki is the development manager at Carry It Forward, an organization seeking to bridge the gap in unhoused services.

"The laws have to consider the impact of enforcement on those experiencing homelessness," said Sielicki. "We want them to have housing. But when governments don't provide appropriate care, we don't have a way to hold them accountable."

Among those championing the bill was Jimmy Jones, executive director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, which assists those experiencing homelessness.

“The bill before you will regulate the time, place, and manner that public camping can be policed. It will give us a chance to give the people living in these conditions a little dignity, a few more services, and it will give us a chance to show that we believe that the Constitution applies to all of us,” Jones testified to a House committee in March.

Community members said they believe everyone should have a place to live. However, many said they believe this bill would make the homeless problem worsen.

"I think it would promote them from coming all over the place," said Eugene resident Ryan McKinnon.

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