The Eugene City Council approved a motion, 6-2, on Wednesday to provide additional rest stops for unsheltered people. These sites could provide up to 100 beds, as well as storage space, hand washing stations, a kitchen area, and restrooms for the unhoused.
There are currently four rest stops, with three being managed by Community Supported Shelters, and the other managed by Nightingale Hosted Shelters. There are mored than 2,400 unhoused individuals and 655 shelter spaces available, according the city which utilizes the By Name List.
Five new proposed spots include Skinner City Farm, Empire Pond, Westmoreland City Pond, Bertelsen Nature Park. and "Lot 9" near Leo Harris Parkway and North Walnut Road.
In response to Councilor Claire Syretts question of whether unhoused residents close to a site would be prioritized, Homeless System's Policy Manager Peter Chavannes said they're working on a strategy.
“We have to identify target populations and there may be demographics, in addition to just where people are residing, that are important so we continue to collaborate with the county with that, but allowing people to stay in the neighborhoods where they’re currently residing is a value of ours,” Chavannes said.
The city plans on using funds from the CARES Coronavirus Relief Fund to help cover costs, but to qualify for that aid, the sites need to be operational before December 30. Chavannes said other sources of funding would come from the city's Coronvirus Response General Fund and Community Development Block Grants.
Additional microsites, sites that allow up to six vehicles, have been identified, but not publicly released at this time.
Councilor Clark, who voted against the proposal, suggested the motion did not provide enough of a solution that would tackle visible camping. An issue, he said was brought to his attention before the meeting by a constituent regarding camping in the River Road area.
"We know because of the Boise decision and the Grants Pass decision that we can’t enforce, effectively, a ban on public camping, illegal camping, unless we have enough spaces, so to continue on over a long period of time knowing we don't have enough spaces is to say we’re okay with public camping, illegal camping, until such a time we figure out some new option, and I’m saying it’s time for us to do that,” he said.
Depending on how the law is applied, cities could be sued under the 2018 Robert Martin v. City of Boise ruling. The ruling found arresting unhoused individuals when the city has not provided alternative indoor shelter unconstitutional. A federal court last month also ruled the city of Grants Pass could not cite people for sleeping outside.
Councilors Syett, Jennifer Yeh, Greg Evans, Chris Pryor, Alan Zelenka, and Emily Semple voted in favor of the motion, while Councilors Betty Taylor, and Mike Clark voted against the motion.
This story has been updated.
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