After reaching a land agreement last week to lease land from the Oregon Department of Transportation, the city of Eugene removed homeless campers living near the I-105 bridge, on Wednesday, Dec. 2.
Brian Richardson, a Public Affairs Manager with Public Works, said the sweep was sparked in part by neighborhood complaints of criminal activity and safety concerns.
“This place, this specific place, was no longer a viable option. It was unhealthy to live here, it was unsafe to live here both for the folks living here camping, as well as for folks who live in the neighborhood,” Richardson said. Hazards included human waste, garbage, and drug paraphernalia.
Under the new agreement with ODOT, the parcels of land around I-105 near Washington St. and Jefferson St. will now be maintained by the City Parks and Open Space Division. This means rules prohibiting camping apply, said Richardson.
People living at the camp were notified on Nov. 27 of the clean up by park staff and were given information on what the process would entail.
The clean up began Wednesday morning, and by the afternoon crews were still in the process of throwing away tents, blankets and other items left behind by campers who had been living there. The Eugene Police Department had several officers onsite observing and monitoring traffic.
A few unhoused people remained at the camp by 3 p.m., packing up what they could, some with the help of others who lived nearby.
Nate, a chronically unhoused artist who had been living at the camp, told KLCC this isn’t the first time he’s been "shuffled" around.
“You got to have contingency plans out here,” he said. “You know you can pretty much expect the unexpected...it’s tough times all around you never know.” Nate said he’s trying to be optimistic, and added he has a backup plan for where to stay next.
Alternative shelter options were given during removal efforts, according to city spokesperson Brian Richardson, and service providers were contacted prior to breaking up the camp.
The city plans on opening four rest stop sites which could add up to 100 beds. But, these rest stops won’t open until the end of the month.
This story may be updated.
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