Eugene Police are taking a new tack in their approach to public safety downtown. A community outreach team tries to help people.
Eugene Police Sergeant Julie Smith meets me at Kesey Square. There’s a noon concert happening. The plaza feels like a fun place to be. That’s how she’d like downtown to feel all the time, instead of like an unsafe neighborhood.
Many of the homeless people downtown have mental illness or drug addiction. Some of them harass passersby, asking for money. Smith says the cops are reaching out to people and trying to help them.
Smith: “I mean permanently place in a home, like back with their family, or in housing, or temporary housing, where they can start addressing their alcohol and drug addictions.”
Smith says the goal is to help 2 to 3 people each month. She says since they started the outreach, the attitude of downtown homeless people toward police has changed.
Smith: “They’ll come running across the street and go, guess what sergeant Smith, I want to tell you something, I want to tell you that I’m next on the housing list or, I got a job!”
Eugene police are working with White Bird Clinic, CAHOOTS and Lane County Public Health in their outreach efforts.