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Protesters Call On Eugene Officials To Create Downtown Homeless Shelter

Brian Bull

Roughly two dozen picketers gathered outside the Downtown Athletic Club at noon today, demanding Eugene businesses support a homeless shelter in the area. 

Protest organizers say the City of Eugene had proposed a downtown homeless site on the old city hall parking lot, but claim a coalition of more than 30 local businesses influenced officials into cancelling that decision.

Karl Eysenbach is with the group, Coalition for Compassionate Community. While this protest follows one held at another business two weeks ago, he isn’t calling for a boycott.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Karl Eysenbach, outside the Downtown Athletic Club, one of the organizers behind today's protest.

“I would much rather see, the City Council, quickly adopt a camp and other shelter strategies as soon as possible," he tells KLCC. 

"Because people are going to die this winter, people have been dying every year in the homeless community, for lack of services.”

Eysenbach acknowledges complaints from businesses and visitors about some homeless, including drug use, defecation, and panhandling.  He says while the newly-formed Camp 99 homeless site in north Eugene helps, there are still people who wish to be in the downtown area. He thinks a homeless shelter on EWEB properties would be a win-win scenario.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
A desk clerk with the Downtown Athletic Club takes a letter handed to her by Steve Dear, one of the organizers of today's protest. The groups Coalition for Compassionate Community and Homeless Empathy & Action Team staged their protest outside DAC before heading to Kesey Square.

“That would be kind of like an out of sight, out of mind kinda thing, that [city officials) could wrap minds their around," he says.  "They could immediately reduce the population downtown by a factor of 50 percent. 

"And the people that were troublemakers, people that could not fit into a group setting, would be more likely to stand out and get intervention from police, for example.”  

Protesters also planned to assemble in Kesey Square for speeches, and distributing flyers.

Copyright 2018, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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