EUGENE, Ore.-- The City of Eugene is investigating the possibility of locating a new homeless shelter in the old VA clinic on River Avenue, which is currently owned by Lane County.
The city allocated over $800,000 for a homeless shelter when its $1.9 million homelessness plan was approved in July 2019. According to officials, staff initially considered building a 75-bed, durable tent-like sprung structure or a building at one of several sites, including a vacant property near Highway 99 and Roosevelt Boulevard.
Now, the city is considering the county's River Avenue Alternative Care Center, which was purchased by the county for $1.8 million as part of the COVID-19 response. The shelter currently houses homeless individuals who have or are suspected to have coronavirus. Rooms in the former clinic have been converted to housing as part of the effort.
According to officials, the city council and county board of commissioners will meet jointly in the next month to discuss the possibility of transitioning the building into the shelter and navigation center once the pandemic ends.
"If that option moves forward, both the city and county are committed to working with neighbors and stakeholders to ensure the future use is a good fit and that good neighbor agreements are in place," city spokesperson Laura Hammond told KEZI 9 News in a statement.
Some neighbors said they were concerned about crime if the shelter were to become a reality.
Jeff Overall has overcome homelessness in the past and lives in the neighborhood. He is supportive of the possibility of a shelter.
"It'd get them off the street. It's a safe place for them to live, and maybe it would cut down on the crime," he said.
Eulalie Lourenco is currently homeless and is living on Eugene's streets. She is eager to see some sort of new homeless shelter that is open to anybody and allows guests some amenities.
"Keep away from each other. Respect each other's spaces. So the homeless shelter would be open. Lots of fresh air, and individual, small rooms," she said.
According to Hammond, the city and county continue to work on the homelessness plan, including efforts to create permanent supportive housing, mobile outreach teams and other system changes.