This is Julie Lambert reporting for KEPW PeaceWorks Community Radio.
[00:00:07] I’m sure our listeners are well aware of the crisis facing our unhoused neighbors. It’s getting colder and therefore it’s getting worse for those whose best and only accommodations are a sleeping bag, a tent, and a tarp to keep out the rain. If they’re really lucky, they can scrounge up a small propane heater to stay warm, but routinely sites have been declared abandoned and everything is discarded. Imagine yourself going out for a cup of coffee or going to work and coming home and finding that the very little possessions you have in the world have been destroyed and you no longer have what you’ve come to call home.
[00:00:53] I strongly disagree with the abandoned theory. When one is unhoused, everything is a commodity. Tents can be sold or traded, and they are highly coveted. They would not just be left behind. One of the worst fears a person on the outs has, is worrying about their possessions when they go to work or appointments as Axios estimates that between 40 to 60% of the homeless population floats in and out of full and part-time work.
[00:01:24] Heather Marek, a staff attorney at the Oregon Law Center, has been helping the community deal with the legal end of things when it comes to our unhoused population. Recently, this is what she said, quote: “In June the city administrative order 58-21-25 prohibited new tenants from Washington Jefferson Park. At that time, there were 240 tents. As of mid November, the sites were down to 139. Now police routinely sweep the sites they deem to be new, even if the residents have been there for a long time. As many know, a lot of folks end up at the Washington Jefferson because the city has not allowed them to reside anywhere else. And people literally have nowhere else to go. This administrative order expires in two weeks, which is going to be December 23rd.”
[00:02:27] She goes on to say, I think that we should press Matt Rodriguez of Public Works to NOT renew it. and he can be reached at MRODIGUES@eugene-or.gov. It is winter. There is a new, highly contagious COVID-19 variant. This order, defies CDC and OHA guidelines. And she asks, please spread the word. So if this is something that you are concerned about, then you can reach Matt Rodrigues of Public Works, and maybe it will help.
[00:03:13] Heather works tirelessly with government officials to ensure they are obeying their own laws, which keeps her busy full time. And there are multiple incidents where laws are being ignored. For example, on December 10th. EPD and city workers evicted a man who was known to be sweet and he uses a wheelchair. He stayed in front of a Mini -Mart for over a year. He was told just to move across the street to the sidewalk where again, he will be kicked out in a week or so there were boots on the ground to come to his aid where he asked for some time to decompress. As I imagine anyone would need, if they were told to move their home and do it immediately, he asked for hand warmers, a dry blanket and rain gear.
[00:04:10] If possible, he would normally just throw a tarp over himself to stay dry in the chair. He can’t use the tent as he is wheelchair bound and confined to the sidewalk as a public space. A tent would be too big. So therefore he would be trespassing for overlapping on the dirt or grass, but the word was sent out and community volunteers brought him all he requested and more, unfortunately, incidents like this happen multiple times a week in our own neighborhoods, EPD and parks department, and the city of Eugene have helped create these crises, taking what little have left in the world that they have pieced together with tarps and tents to craft a loan and throwing it in the trash in Oregon.
[00:04:59] It is estimated that 11,000 people, including children are probably going to be evicted this month. So despite the fact that we see less tents around, it just means people have gone on to where they can’t be found or their campsite was dismantled. Or moved down the street only to be told they have to move again, such as the gentleman in the wheelchair and the cold can be so bitter that people can lose limbs due to frostbite.
[00:05:29] And since the government would not address this—and they were asked—Sarah Koski and Heather Sielicki of Lane County Community Organizations Active in Disaster, also known as COAD, have created an organization called No More Lost Limbs to help those who could lose limbs to frost by with donations of warm boots.
[00:05:53] It’s clear that the laws or the lack thereof in our neighborhoods is literally hurting or even killing people who are our neighbors. But the loss of life is not forgotten. Eugene’s annual candlelight vigil will be hosted by the Eugene human rights commission and its poverty and homelessness work group to honor and remember those persons who have died here homeless in the last year, it is on Tuesday, December 21st, from seven to eight at the park. An open mic for those who wish to speak of their remembrances of friends, loved ones and neighbors whose homelessness made them vulnerable to an unnecessary deaths.
[00:06:42] They asked that you please wear a mask and practice social distancing. Please bring your own source of light. Tea and food will be available if you are housed and wished to make a donation. Please bring items that will immediately assist people who are homeless with survival tents, sleeping bags, warm clothing, hand warmers, and socks, socks, and socks, and more socks because everyone wants to stay warm and dry, and everyone wants a place to call home.
[00:07:22] And Eugene calls itself a ‘Homes First’ city, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Housing First is a homeless assistance program that prioritizes providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, thus ending the cycle and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life. This approach is guided by the belief that people need basic necessities like food and a place to live before attending to anything less critical.
[00:07:58] There are at least four communities in the United States, including Lancaster City and county in Pennsylvania; Rockford, Illinois; Bergen County, New Jersey; and Southwest Minnesota Continuum Of Care and others who are rapidly approaching the goal of what Homes First really means.
[00:08:19] Eugene has made great inroads, but it will be sometime before everyone has a place to call home and we can be a true Housing First city. A nation’s greatness as measured by how it treats its weakest members.
[00:08:34] This is Julie Lambert reporting for KEPW PeaceWorks Community Radio.