EUGENE, Ore. -- Community members gathered at the intersection of Highway 99 and Royal Avenue in Eugene Friday evening for a candlelight vigil in memory of the man found dead at a nearby bus stop the day before.
"We know very little. We were contacted by a patient that we care for regularly who is unsheltered who had seen him sheltering for the past three days and when he last saw him he offered him a warm cup of hot water and the next morning he was found passed away," said Mackenzie NiFlainn, the project director of medical outreach and education at Black Thistle Street Aid.
More than a dozen community members attended the vigil. They left flowers and held candles at the bus stop where the man's body was found. Attendees said they don't know the man's name but they were told he was an elderly man.
"Whether they're 20, or 50, or 70, there's countless people on the street for countless reasons and each of them is important," said Dr. Willy Foster, an emergency room physician who is involved with a number of clinics that provide free care to the homeless. "To have someone like this pass away is tragic. I'm sure he has family someplace, and to think that he died here alone is tough."
The cause of the man's death has not been released at this time, but police said there was no indication of a crime.
NiFlainn said there was likely no place else for this man to go.
"No doubt, he spent those three days sitting here at this bus stop because it was the only place he could go where he wouldn't be harassed and told he couldn't sit there," NiFlainn said.
The city displaced more than 100 individuals in a single sweep on Dec. 2, 2020, NiFlainn said.
"The city of Eugene made promises to us then," NiFlainn said. "They said they were going to move towards divesting from the practice of sweeps and from the criminalization of their most vulnerable population. They haven't even made it to the one year anniversary of that and we are seeing them systematically go back on their promises."
NiFlainn expressed concern about the cold temperatures anticipated over the next few months.
"We are only seeing the beginning. This is November. The worst of the freeze, the worst of the rain, the worst of the hypothermic conditions that we see people die from every single year is coming," NiFlainn said.