April 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Activists to propose safe spots for tents June 21

5 min read
Homeless persons in Eugene are told to move on but have no place to go. Gerilyn Van will propose adapting the safe spot model, substituting tents for Conestoga huts, at a 6 p.m. community meeting at Alluvium and on Zoom.

A community discussion June 21 at Alluvium. How can we create safe spots quickly and affordably? One of the meeting organizers, Gerilyn Van:

Gerilyn Van (City Tent Safe Spots): I have supported CSS (which is Community Supported Shelters) ‘Safe Spots,’ and that is the model because they’re the most effective nonprofit with the unhoused here in Eugene. And so the model is a proven success. And so we’re just asking to take that model and bring it to the tent site so we can have more, faster, cheaper ways for people to survive.

[00:00:38] I drive by the Railroad Boulevard almost every day or every other day, and I see the people out there, and I’ve had enough courage recently to go out there and talk with them, and they really need help. And they need simple help, the basics: Potty toilets, garbage cans. And, you know, it’s a survival place and I just think that we could help them out and give them more dignity while they’re surviving and some basic needs.

[00:01:10] I just I don’t understand, I guess you could say, how every Eugenian doesn’t have just their basic needs met. ‘Cause we have so much wealth here in our community. We build the stadiums and we beautify our parks and we develop the river areas and Fifth Street. And yet we’ve not addressed this very important issue.

[00:01:34] I actually wrote a proposal before and sent it to the city and I had a response from the mayor actually and from (Ward 7 Councilor) Lyndsie Leech. And they basically were citing there in 2020 when they had the Washington Jefferson Park tent sites out there during the pandemic. They said they didn’t work and they cited a bunch of different reasons. So within my proposal, ‘City Tent Safe Sites,’ I talk about their past mistakes.

[00:02:04] They didn’t have the rules and regulations that Community Supported Shelters have, so that’s why I’m asking that the representatives and mayor, the mayor herself, go and see what they are doing so we can replicate that very easily.

[00:02:24] They (CSS Safe Spots) don’t have the issues that Washington Jefferson Park tent sites had, that the city established. So that’s part of it. And how they need to to look at those mistakes and do it differently and correct their mistakes, but not just take away the tent sites and have ’em have no place to go.

[00:02:45] CSS has ‘three strikes and you’re out.’ So violence, drugs aren’t allowed on the site. It’s a locked gate, and as well as the supervision is more stringent and yet it also allows the participants to hold roles and do tasks within the community. And they have a meeting every week to look at the issues so that when issues do arise, they address ’em as a community.

[00:03:17] It’s very healing for the people there. And if anybody visits one of the Community Supported Shelters, they’d be in awe of what they’re doing. But they too, they don’t have the funding and the money to sometimes even support what they created with their Conestoga huts.

[00:03:34] I think everyone should do a tour there so that they could see that Conestoga huts could be easily replicated into the tent site.

[00:03:42] But yeah, a piece of city land (that’s free) and a fence; water spigot would be great, but the CSS, they have just large jugs that they tip over to wash hands and face with; port-a-potties; and a community room for their weekly meetings and then also some bins. They could build actual platforms as well for, say, 12 to 16 tents. And they could have bins for their food, to keep it nice and tidy around their tent site.

And then the other thing is just to hire a facilitator to facilitate these community meetings and also have a navigator who can let them know of some of the outside services in the community that they could use.

[00:04:30] I was just thinking about one of the women who shared at the community safe spot, and she said it took her two weeks before her nervous system could settle and relax.

[00:04:39] And then also another one had shared about their backpack, it’s almost like a symbol of ‘You’re not human,’ or something, walking around with a backpack, where they’d have a place to keep their things. And they said their stuff often gets stolen. And yeah, just to have a spot of their own, to be able to lay their things down.

[00:05:02] Along with, if you’ve seen all the garbage just thrown along the railroad, it’s just ridiculous.

[00:05:08] Let’s do a pilot project. Let’s just show that one or two of these really work. And then add more just like Community Supported Shelters did: They started with one, then went to four. And now they’re at 14.

[00:05:21] And you know, we have those two-hour notice sweeps that the police have been doing. And yet Eugene has no alternatives available for those sleeping on public property. And these community tent safe sites could eventually be a solution to that as well.

[00:05:40] I saw Eli when I was over at Alluvium (I’ve been volunteering since the pandemic). Eli was very concerned about the situation of the people that he sees there. And so I told him about my proposal and he was all in. And he said, ‘How can I support you?’ And I told him about this campaign kickoff for the homeless in Eugene, that they have no place to go. That’s what I’m calling the campaign anyway. ‘No place to go.’ And City Tent Safe Sites would give them a place to go.

[00:06:12] John Q: A community discussion on standing up City Tent Safe Sites June 21 at Alluvium, Third and Monroe, starting at 6 p.m. 

The meeting features CSS Director of Philanthrophy Heather Quaas-Annsa, discussing camp management and operations; and Lynn Porter of Homeless Action, discussing a community response to the city’s two-hour eviction notices. Participate in the community discussion in person or by Zoom.

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