Police kick homeless campers out of Eugene park

Some Eugene homeless community members say they are concerned about the health and safety of crowded shelters.

Posted: Apr 10, 2020 7:15 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Eugene police told homeless campers to move along from a public park Friday afternoon.

Over the past two weeks, there have been numerous complaints about the homeless community camping at Monroe Park.

“Considering the fact that there’s a quarantine going on, it’s one of those moments where I’m like, you cannot be serious,” said homeless man Jahjuan Hitchens.

The campers will now have to find new accommodations.

“We’re asking them to go over to the White Bird Clinic, which has been coined as the distribution center for information, as far as where people can go legally camp,” said Sgt. Gregg Magnus.

Local residents like Vanessa Wheeler were relieved the homeless are moving out because of health and safety concerns.

“There are homeless folks that are clearly trying to take care of themselves and are really respectful. And there are some that are congregating and probably aren’t aware of COVID rules and considerations. So that’s a concern when we are all taking the necessary social distancing measures and have big groups that are not,” said Wheeler.

In the county, a few homeless shelters have sprung up to help, and the county has also spent over $1.8 million to buy a vacant building where homeless individuals can recover from COVID-19.

Hitchens, however, said he was afraid to move away from parks and into one of the free shelters in fear he might catch the virus.

“Me and my friends, we keep to ourselves. We don’t like big groups. That’s why we aren’t going to the safe zones as everyone keeps saying because that’s a lot of people,” said Hitchens.

Senior attorney at the Civil Liberties Defense Center Lauren Regan feels the city’s action today was inappropriate and wrong.

“It seems to make no sense for the city or EPD to be pushing (the homeless) out of that location and literally forcing them to spread around the city and the community,” said Regan.

Now Hitchens is on the move again. But where to?

“I can’t say for fear that (Eugene police) will show up,” said Hitchens.

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