Over the weekend, volunteers helped move a homeless encampment from the highly visible downtown “Butterfly” lot to another county-owned property off Highway 99 in West Eugene.
Tents and little trailers called “Occu-pods” line the gravel lot here. There are ten portable toilets, two are handicapped accessible. There are hand washing stations. About 70 people, including some teens, have relocated to this temporary homeless camp.
Lane County spokesperson Devon Ashbridge says the county understands the complexity of the homeless issue.
“Of the campers that I’ve had a chance to meet, people with a variety of situations and needs,” Ashbridge says. “So there’s no one silver bullet that helps with this. But you know this is meant to be a secure place with sanitation and it’s close to some other services that are key.”
Saint Vincent DePaul Lindholm Center operates across the busy street and serves three meals a day.
Lane County Commissioner Pat Farr helped move campers in. He says some of the neighbors in the area have concerns and he’s addressing them.
“People here understand that this is a safe place to stay,” Farr says. “And I believe that the people who are residing here right now really don’t want to jeopardize that.”
One camper who goes by “Papa Bear” carefully navigates the rocky ground in a wheelchair. He says he’s been homeless in Eugene for 3 and a half years and just arrived at this camp.
“I’m impressed and I hope it continues,” says Bear. “There are a lot of needs but it’s not always about a bowl of cereal or a pair of socks. Most of the time it’s just a hug, somebody to listen to. Sometimes it’s just a place to rest.”
A recent 9th Circuit Court decision out of Boise, requires that public agencies provide access to low-barrier homeless shelters before restricting sleeping on public property.