February 29, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

LEAGUE may seek bodycams on parks personnel

9 min read
An advisory group hears that closing restrooms to the public discourages families from attending city-sponsored events downtown.

A Lane County advisory group may ask for bodycams on all officials who interact with unhoused persons. And for yet another year, one member is asking for more access to public restrooms. On Feb. 2, the Poverty and Homelessness Board’s lived experience group discussed its work plan.

Richard Self (Chair, LEAGUE): I put a couple of things in the list of things to be worked on, such as for accessibility: Bathroom access. I remember Martha saying in our last meeting that she’s been working on bathroom access for 40 years. So, I think this is one of our top priorities that we should be looking at.

[00:00:44] For accountability: Especially in law enforcement, but anyone that interacts in any way with the unhoused should wear bodycams and they should be on.

[00:00:58] The last one I wanted to insert in the category of law enforcement was: No sweeps after 11 P.M.

[00:01:08] Julie Lambert (LEAGUE): I like the idea of having no sweeps after 11. That sounds beautiful. But who would we contact? Is that the city manager that’s implementing the sweeps and determining when they’re happening? Is it the police department? Who would we even appeal to for some sort of change in how they’re doing sweeps? ‘Cause we’ve always wanted to change how they do sweeps and I’m just uncertain who our contact would be. Thanks.

[00:01:41] Richard Self (Chair, LEAGUE): Kelly McIver makes the policy decisions, I believe, for the city of Eugene in regards to those things. And the city manager is the one who has the final decision on whether a sweep is carried out or not.

[00:01:58] Amanda Borda (Lane County): I think adding sort of an action step of what you’re actually going to do to get to that. So maybe it’s adding:  ‘Scheduling a meeting with city manager (or whoever’s appropriate at the city) to discuss sweeps and the policies around that,’ would be an action step of what we’re actually going to do as a group.

[00:02:17] And the same with the bathroom access, we do have it as a goal. But I think we didn’t identify any action steps specifically that were going to be taken to get there. We’ve actually as LEAGUE have had that bathroom access was a goal in our original work plan years ago.

[00:02:32] Richard Self (Chair, LEAGUE): Yes. Now as Julie is pointing out, I’m at a loss of who we would talk to about bathroom access. Is that a city parks department? Does that have to do with the county?

[00:02:44] Amanda Borda (Lane County): Let’s put as an action step that we’re going to identify who it is we talk to. I think if you’re wanting to put in public restrooms, it’s going to be your public entities, right? (Right.) It depends on, I guess, on how you want to approach that, right?

[00:02:57] Richard Self (Chair, LEAGUE): Well, yeah, we may or may not have a port-a-potty in the park blocks, for example, and that comes and that goes, and we never know if that’s going to be accessible. It’s wonderful that there are so many entities out there that will feed people, but after you feed people, they do need to go.

[00:03:17] George Carlin says: ‘If you live next to a volcano, you shouldn’t be surprised by lava in the living room.’ And if you don’t have any restroom access whatsoever, then you shouldn’t be surprised if somebody has pooped in your backyard.

[00:03:33] So let’s keep that in mind when there’s so many people who are complaining about those kinds of things that are housed people that don’t like the homeless. This is another thing we need to identify and find out who we talk to about this.

[00:03:49] Martha Bryson (LEAGUE): You know, we try very hard not to say we’re political. Or we try to say that this work, no matter what your political persuasion is, needs to be done. However, it is political.

[00:04:08] I want to tell you, 35 years ago the county of Los Angeles wouldn’t let anyone go to the bathroom. When the gas stations started locking the doors and saying, ‘Unless you buy gas, you can’t use our bathrooms,’ the county made it an ordinance that if you’re open to the public, you have to have a public bathroom.

[00:04:32] Now that is way radical for 35 years ago, and it would be unconscionable to even suggest that the city of Eugene pass a resolution or a municipal code or something that says if you’re open to the public, you have to have a public bathroom. They would be in an uproar if we even suggested such a thing.

[00:04:57] But it’s the humane thing to do and if Los Angeles and the city of Long Beach could adopt these municipal codes and these county ordinances that bring it into the human rights aspect of being able to go to the bathroom—

[00:05:16] I don’t want to overhear in the bagel shop: ‘Excuse me, do you have a public bathroom?’ And they say, ‘No, it’s only for employees.’ And then the customer says, ‘I’m sorry, but my seven-year-old is going to wet on your floor.’ You know, it shouldn’t be in 2024 that we have to remind people about public access to restrooms everywhere.

[00:05:44] But it’s a political thing. We have to apply political pressure to get people to understand about bathrooms and this human need to go to the bathroom.

[00:05:58] So yes, I understand it’s very hard to deal with homeless people with all their baggage and their cart, and you worried about them going to the bathroom and staying too long, or changing clothes, or bathing in your sink. But the reality is: We have not made our communities livable for homeless people. So they come as part of what we’ve created.

[00:06:29] And so we have to think about, as members, we have to think about who you’re going to apply pressure to. How are we going to get change, real change? And look at it like that. Literally, it’s not ever going to get better, it’s only going to get worse if we don’t address the issues.

[00:06:53] I went to park blocks six months ago for an activity that was sponsored by the city of Eugene and they had port-a-potties there. And they were locked and it was 7:30 at night. They were locked. I went to the person who was in charge and I said, ‘Why are these port-a-potties locked? This is a city-sponsored event.’

[00:07:18] And they say, ‘They don’t tell us, they don’t give us the key, and they don’t make sure someone’s here to lock it up and unlock it.’ That may be a city staffing issue or a decision, but it shouldn’t be my problem if you want me to go to an event at the park blocks that’s sponsored by the city.

[00:07:38] This is how insane this is. Really. So we have to do something different. We have to take a firmer step and we have to find out who pulls the strings, who makes it happen, and who’s keeping it from happening.

[00:07:56] So. And the sweeps, I’m going to say the same thing. We’ve been over this, over and over. I don’t want sweeps to happen at 4:00 in the afternoon, much less 11:00 at night. I don’t want you to wake up a homeless person sleeping on the street and say, ‘You have to move,’ when we have no place for them to go.

[00:08:19] So we’ve visited this before and the police department says, ‘We’re just following orders from the city manager’s office.’ Do you remember in the Eugene Weekly that big brouhaha that happened when the city council was questioned about these two-hour tickets to leave? And the city said, ‘We did not pass that rule. That’s not us.’ ‘Cause everyone came down on the city council and it turned out it was the city manager who was telling people and it wasn’t the police doing it.

[00:08:53] So you have a lot of entities that are stirring the pot and not taking any accountability for their part in it. So the solution is multifaceted. You have to go to the city council and say, ‘Why do you have ordinances? You’re in charge of the police department and what they can and can’t do in our city.’ So we have to examine all these different jigsaw pieces and find out where the true accountability is.

[00:09:25] And if it’s spread out, we need to go after and attack all of those to get these sweeps to stop. It shouldn’t take the 9th (U.S.) Circuit (Court of Appeals) and then they just ignore it ’cause we have no place for them to go.

[00:09:39] So that’s all I’m going to say. And nobody likes when I have these kinds of rants. But it’s the truth. It is the truth.

[00:09:49] Richard Self (Chair, LEAGUE): I personally love your rants. I would encourage more people to rant, as needed, to do this.

[00:09:57] And this is not just the unhoused people that are affected by this. I read on social media not too long ago about a woman who has two young daughters and will not go downtown ever again ’cause there’s no restrooms, saying, ‘When my daughter’s gotta go, my daughter’s gotta go.’ That was her statement. And so I think this is needed to be taken into account.

[00:10:21] And again, I don’t know where to put this, but if they’re going to continue to do what they’re going to continue to do with sweeps, then again, I’m advocating somewhere in this for—I don’t know how to word it here—but for body cameras to be on those who interact with the unhoused, especially at 2:00 and 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning when they’re told to get the F out of town. I want that on tape.

[00:10:48] Also, with the shelter finder, the provider dashboard, this should give the police a tool to know whether they can, really by law, sweep somebody or not. And if they decide, ‘We’re not going to look at the shelter finder,’ or ‘We don’t care what it says,’ or any disregard for that in using a sweep: If they find that there are no beds, then they can’t legally move people. And I want some accountability for that.

[00:11:20] But these are the things that the unhoused deal with all the time that we are not dealing with because we’re in our house. And these things are all things that people need to be held accountable for, or provide access to.

[00:11:38] There’s another one we could possibly look into: legalized parking areas. If you remember back last summer, there was the city council meeting, and during that city council meeting, there was all the areas that were outlined by the city manager and the city attorney, especially, where the unhoused could not go when asked where they could go, the city attorney said, ‘That’s impossible to know.’

[00:12:05] And what was unsaid is, ‘We’re not going to tell you because we don’t want all the unhoused to go there.’ And so therefore, that’s a stance on both where people can go to camp and where they could legally park—those are still up in the air. So I think it’s imperative that we have a representative from the city, preferably the city manager and/or the city attorney and or the park department, Kelly McIver there to look into these things.

[00:12:38] John Q: The list now goes to Lane County’s PHB, the Poverty and Homelessness Board.

[00:12:43] Amanda Borda: I’ll send this forward to the PHB. And then I think the next step is just to look at these priority items, and that’s where you start formulating the next few agendas for this group.

[00:12:54] And if needed, start thinking about which members want to take on different things. Are there other work groups you want to form outside of the meeting time to really dive into things in detail? That’s really up to you all as a group, how you want to tackle these action steps, right? There’s only so much that we can get done within a meeting time, but some things might take, right, some, a couple of you getting together outside to really dive into something or whatever it might be. But it is figuring out those details of how we move forward.

[00:13:24] John Q: The Lived Experience Advisory Group on Unhoused Engagement (LEAGUE) sets its work plan for the year. The chair asks for bodycams for parks personnel, more public restrooms, a map showing where people can safely stay, and accountability for those violating 9th Circuit Court rulings.

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