Eric Jackson, a traveling activist, came to speak about the 9th Crest Court Case regarding the homelessness epidemic in Lane County. Jackson has worked in many communities and is in agreement with the court believing that homelessness cannot be criminalized without having adequate housing options.
The camp in question is on public property at Eugene’s City Hall and though the community and local businesses want nothing to do with it, the police haven’t had a reason to arrest the people camping because no crimes have technically been committed since the camp belonged on public property. In October, over 100 people were living at the “dusk till dawn” camp, meaning that it was mainly a place to gather and sleep at night. Concerns began to build about the sanitation, health, and safety of the people living there, as well as where the people could go during the daytime.
The city and county decided that something needed to be done and have since found a lot on Highway 99 just north of Roosevelt. The property belongs to the county after a tax foreclosure making it an ideal spot to move the camp. Across the street is a service station and despite the distance from downtown, the area isn’t totally isolated. The spot has been prepared to accommodate garbage and restrooms and has even been fenced with trees, plants, and screens for privacy. Lucky, one of the campers, was excited about the new camp and couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a shower.
Guardian trailers with cameras were brought in to help with security and lighting. ODOT was contracted to build a crosswalk with the goal to finish it by the end of December. The camp currently has 115 beds and St. Vincent de Paul has stepped in to expand their Dusk Till Dawn program by helping fund an additional 80 beds. They are hoping to help make it a “dawn to dawn” camp so people can safely leave items at their spots.
Perhaps the most difficult part of this project has been convincing campers to change locations. As the leader and organizer of the original camp site at City Hall, Eric Jackson was brought to visit the proposed new site. He was impressed by what he saw and addition to the police, recommended having other activists aide in the move to boost the homeless campers’ trust in the new site. LTD buses and flatbed trucks were used to help move everyone and their belongings.
Though the influx has had a large impact on the Lindholm Community Service Center located close by, good communication has been maintained and the move was an overall success. The camp originally aimed to serve two meals a day, five days a week and quickly surpassed that goal. Now, it provides three meals a day, seven days a week.
By January, Camp 99 will be completed and all residents from the downtown camp should be relocated.