Homeless Advocate Alley Valkryie provided an overview of both facts and myths concerning the homeless situation in the Eugene/Springfield area, focusing on the various sub-populations on the street, the programs and services that are and aren’t offered, and how other cities have successfully reduced their street populations. Highlights from her presentation are below as is a partial video of her presentation (apologies for the rough videography at start).
- It’s important to gain separate perspectives and to form your own decision about homeless issues.
- Statistics can be unreliable. For instance, the “Official” number by a government survey is that there are 1700 people in Lane County that are homeless, but this is a very dramatic under-count.
- In 2013 around 10,000 people apply to services in Lane County and most (over 70%) are from Lane County. While not all are homeless at the same time, a much larger percentage than 17% are.
- According to the Oregon Board of Education, there are 2250 students that are homeless, 1000 of which are in Eugene/Springfield – this shows how unreliable the first “official” statistic is.
- We do have a seasonal traveler population that comes for the various festivals and fairs, which is their chosen “drifter” lifestyle, and Eugene is one of the stops. Other stops include Olympia, Arcadia, etc. but this is a separate homeless population and most do not seek housing or services. Unfortunately, they do contribute to the problems homeless face including public perception. When Alley talks about the homeless situation, she doesn’t include this population.
- The fact is that most of our homeless population is FROM our area (73%). Only 13% are from out of state.
- A myth: Eugene attracts more homeless because of our great services. This can be said around the country in every mid-size university city. Mid-size university cities typically have more homeless. We are no more or less a magnet than other “University towns”.
- Eugene does have a large population of visible homeless because of a lack of appropriate shelters.
- Lane County comes in 19th in the nation for the population of un-sheltered homeless as compared to sheltered.
- Portland, Ashland, Roseburg, etc. are all facing homeless population issues.
- The main reason people migrate that are homeless are because of friends, families, or a job.
- People are actually leaving Eugene for other areas with more shelter.
- Utah is giving away apartments and they are not getting an influx of homeless because of that service. It is a myth that if we build it, they will come.
- There is a very long waiting list for almost all services with the exception of the Mission.
- The Mission cannot serve everyone. For instance, those with drug and alcohol problems. We don’t have enough supportive housing or care and programs for homeless with mental illness or for those struggling with a certain level of addiction. And it is those people who are the most visible and scary and even though it is a very small population, residents look at the entire population and judge based on this one very much under-served sub-population.
- That small sub-population, however, costs the city a lot of money because they are the criminal element and the most disruptive.
- Some cities have adopted a “housing first” philosophy. You give shelter to anyone willing to take it. It is not seen as enabling. And it saves a fortune. Each city implementing “housing first” has seen considerable cost savings. Seattle has seen a 50% cost savings.
- There are a lot of projects in Eugene that are innovative and successful such as Opportunity Village which is housing 30-35 people. 14 of those who first moved in have already transitioned on to traditional housing. It costs less than $10k a year (and is supported by private donations). This project has ignited a trend and is getting national attention.
- Duplication of projects like Opportunity Village is the #1 way to address situational homeless populations. So many just need a way to get caught up and back on solid footing. In Alley’s opinion, the #1 way to address chronic homelessness is to provide wet beds.
- Homelessness is NOT solvable and we can’t possibly provide a home to everyone that needs one but there is opportunity to truly affect the problem and minimize the street population.
- We really need a wet bed shelter for those suffering from drug and alcohol problems. The behavior isn’t going to change until we are proactive at addressing this. There’s been success in pretty much every wet bed shelter project that has been implemented in other areas.
- We can put serious dents in the homelessness problem without too much expense and effort. For instance, when someone is evicted but can’t quite cover the 1st/last/deposit for a new place, we could offer assistance. Many become homeless because of that. And then once you are homeless for a period of time, it becomes nearly impossible to get out of it without a great deal of help.
- In answer to a question: Central Latino and Hispanic churches tend to help that population and the hispanic homeless population does seem to be less visible, possibly as a result of that help.
You can contact Alley here: firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-954-3779