Vehicle camping in Eugene has surged over the past year with the city receiving hundreds of complaints from community members and businesses owners. The city council will consider how to solve this problem and where to allow vehicle campers Monday night.
Delayne Anson lost her father four years ago. After he died, she spent a year sorting out his belongings. Then she sold his estate and bought an RV, prepared for an adventure.
“Freedom," Ansen said while sitting in her 23 foot long travel trailer. "You know I didn’t want to be tied to an apartment, and I knew I couldn’t live with somebody. I didn’t make enough money to get an apartment on my own, you know just disability, so I thought hey this would be perfect.”
But Anson, who’s in her 50s, has since realized that when you don’t have a lot of money, living in an RV isn’t all that great.
“Oh yeah sure, if you’re rich if you’re really rich!" she said. "I mean really rich, then you can stay at all these places like Armitage for the rest of your life if you have everything.”
Anson considers herself homeless and lives with her two cats, Marie and Zeus. She relies on disability income and odd jobs.
She's been parked at the Armitage RV Park in Eugene for the past few days and can only afford to stay another week. It costs about $35 a night. At the time of the interview Anson was considering moving onto a friends property.
“It’s a nebulous, it’s fleeting, everytime it’s just— well I had it for a second," she said about the fear of having her trailer towed. "This right here was accumulated over four years, this is fleeting, I know it’s not going to last, I just know in my heart it’s not going to last. I almost didn’t make it, I almost lost it,” she said.
Previously, Anson was parked at Owen Loop Road in West Eugene, an area surrounded by industrial buildings where dozens of RVs and campers have lined the road. After the city posted a notice on her travel trailer she had 72 hours to leave or lose everything.
Anson had to scramble to find a way to move her RV since her vehicle had been towed a day before. She is unable to recover her car because she doesn't have the title. She said she aquired the car through a trade, but the previous owner never gave her the paperwork even though she handed over her title. Luckily, she says a friend helped her move to Armitage Park.
For Anson, losing everything is something she's all too familar with. One time she had her trailer towed and was given 15 minutes to retrieve whatever belongings she could. She said she had a mental breakdown and had to be physically dragged away from her trailer.
"I see a lot of people that, that happens to that nobody recognizes what they're doing to them," Anson said. "You're taking this person's entire household...you're telling them that they have to move everything now, or it's going to get towed or it's going to get thrown away, just take what you can grab," she continued, "thats's their home, that's everything they own."
Anson ended up selling her father's gun, one of the few things she got from him to get her RV back. The gun was something she was willing to give up because her cat, Marie, was still in her RV while it was parked in the tow yard.
More recently, Anson was parked on private property owned by a lumber company last year. They'd let her stay there for a short period of time before asking her to leave which she said she was going to comply with.
"I was living up in a 5th wheel up above Siuslaw Falls by myself, I had everything I needed, I had my generator, I could be self sufficient, I was so happy, the cats were so happy, nobody was there, nobody bothered us," she said.
Then the sky grew dark and ash began to fall from the sky. She didn't have cell phone service and had no idea what was going on other than there had to be a fire nearby. Anson grabbed her cats and drove her car to the nearest home.
"I couldn't go back to camp because of the mandatory evacuation of the campgrounds becuase of the smoke and the fire danger and while I was away I got looted...you have the things with you that you love and that you cherish and they took everything," Anson said.
While a few friends and kind individuals have helped Anson along the way, she said one of the most challenging parts of being homeless is the stigma and the ostracization she faces daily.
"I never thought I would be considered less than worthy of police protection, less than worthy of asking help from a citizen, you know a passerby if you broke down on the road, I didn't think they would look at me like 'you're nothing, you're nothing,'" she said.
More than anything, Anson said she wishes she could stay on a piece of property where she's welcome and can live in her RV with her cats without the constant fear of having to move. To her, she said that would be home.
For now, Anson's living in a state of limbo playing what she calls "tetris." This means finding places where she can park her trailer and stay for as long as she can. Sometimes, that spot happens to be exactly where the city doesn't want her to be.
Councilors Consider Parking Restrictions
Eugene City Councilor Randy Groves has proposed parking restrictions in industrial commercial areas, like where Anson was staying. He spoke at a recent meeting.
“Our businesses and our workers, these are hundreds of jobs we are talking about in West Eugene and they are having a hard time conducting business,” Groves said.
He said owners had difficulty getting trucks in and out of driveways, and human waste has also become a problem for his constituents.
“It’s just a bad situation, we need to get control of this, this isn’t something that can wait six months, this isn’t something that can wait a year, we need to be moving now and it’s still going to take time before we can actually enact this if we are to pass it,” he told councilors.
The growth of vehicle camping, according to city data on ‘Calls for Service,’ has far outpaced both park and right of way camping over the past year. In March there were 138 reports on right of way camping while there were 879 calls for vehicle camping.
But apart from a handful of designated overnight parking spaces in the city, there’s nowhere for vehicle campers to go. It’s an issue councilor Matt Keating brought up in response to Groves' motion.
“We have a history of embracing the dislocation strategy rather than relocation tactics. It’s one more time where the cart is before the horse, there’s not necessarily enough places for folks to legitimately camp in the midst of a global pandemic,” Keating said.
Councilors passed Groves motion 7-1 with Keating being the lone dissenter. This means staff will need to come up with a plan to deter parking in industrial areas. The original motion specified the West Eugene area, but after input from councilor Alan Zalenka all industrial areas in Eugene will be under consideration.
Meanwhile the city is moving to increase the size and number of places like microsites, which can include overnight parking spaces. Both of these discussions are scheduled for April 26.
Note: Matt Keating is an ex oficio member of the KLCC Public Radio Foundation Board and on the board for Lane Community College.
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