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Lane County considers overnight camping pilot program

A new pilot program for overnight homeless camping and parking could be implemented in the River Road and Santa Clara area.

Posted: Oct 31, 2017 7:04 PM
Updated: Nov 1, 2017 9:49 AM

EUGENE, Ore. - A new pilot program for overnight homeless camping and parking could be implemented in the River Road and Santa Clara area.

According to a report by county staff, on any given night, more than 1,529 Lane County residents are homeless and 1,003 are without shelter.

The Lane County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday morning to discuss options for the establishment of a pilot program, allowing overnight camping in the Urban Transition zone within the Urban Growth boundary in the River Road/Santa Clara area.

"The City of Eugene worked on this in the 1990s. So it's not as if we're breaking new ground. We do allow overnight camping during in the winter in our Behavioral Health parking lot," said Commissioner Pat Farr.

According to Keith Heath, a manager and overnight parking coordinator for St. Vincent de Paul's Overnight Parking Programs said the City of Eugene has 40 of these locations.

If the pilot project were to be approved, Lane County would use up to $41,696 of its allocation of additional State Homeless Assistance Program funds to do a vendor selection for an Overnight Parking Program to serve 10 households in the River Road/Santa Clara area.

One of the concerns that neighbors had was about safety and crime. Commissioner Pat Farr said that has not been a problem for the City of Eugene.

"Very few, if any public response due to the nature of the agreement with St. Vincent de Paul the city has. So regarding public safety, we anticipate no responses," said Farr.

Keith Heath, said there is a process before someone can be accepted into one of their parking locations. He said those who are admitted contribute to keeping the area safe.

"They're so happy to have that spot. They're going to make sure no one else is around so they can keep it. And that kind of keeps down the crime," said Heath. "The majority of the people that are in our program or have been in our program are thankful to be in the program."

Commissioner Farr emphasized the board's ultimate goal is get these people into permanent housing.

"Now do we want people spending the night in their cars? No, that's not what we would like. What we would like is permanent residences for people so we're continually trying to add new front doors - small houses, apartments HACSA-sanctioned houses, whatever it may be...that's the ideal," said Farr.

Lane County commissioners will meet again on November 30th. Farr said they plan on taking action on the pilot program at their next meeting.

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