June 12, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Councilors, public oppose parking ordinance that would target homeless

36 min read
Jetty Etty: I met a few people whose homes were towed away, never to be seen again. The trauma that has caused them is unrepairable. People that have gone missing, never to be returned, sold into human trafficking and shipped from this country—because they lost their safety to impounding—will never be forgotten.

City councilors and the public speak out against new parking rules that would target the homeless. On March 11:

Councilor Lyndsie Leech: By increasing fees and making it easier to impound vehicles that are being used as a home, we are taking their belongings, sometimes even their pets, their medications, identification, and other documents. We’re stripping people of their security and their safety. We’re stripping them of an ability to have a locked door, which is so important and so vital for some of our most vulnerable, like our women and children, and our elderly.

[00:00:33] So we’re pushing people around the city without a viable option for them to be legal. So without implementing where and when and how we’re going to allow people to park, we’re continuing a downward cycle and exacerbating our situation.

[00:00:48] So we’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars issuing, processing, and collecting fines and 99% of people can’t or don’t pay this fine. So it doesn’t make sense that we are suggesting to increase the fine by 600%. We’re already wasting our city’s resources fighting a battle that we’re not going to win in this way. So let’s find a solution, quickly, so we can reallocate that money and time and figure out out where we can allow people to park.

[00:01:15] So I would like to not take any action tonight. I’d like to have another work session where we can continue to talk about this conversation and I’d like to hear from our community members tonight about this topic.

[00:01:30] Councilor Greg Evans: You know, when I first came on this on this Council 11 years ago, this was one of the top issues that we were facing in 2013, is homelessness. We have done some things—with our safe sleep sites, you know, some other interventions have proven that they work, but clearly it’s not enough.

[00:01:56] We have a, not just a local problem and a regional problem, but we have a national problem. And until some of our leaders, and I’m not being overly critical ’cause I’m part of that too, until we figure out that the real problem that we need to deal with is poverty, and the lasting effects of poverty that continue to plague our communities, we’re not going to get ourselves out of this mess. It’s just going to get worse.

[00:02:32] Councilor Alan Zelenka: I don’t really see how increasing these fines on people in deep poverty that can’t pay, will accomplish anything. In fact, our own data from the city of Eugene gathered by Heather Marek, staff attorney for Lane County Legal Aid, she added some of this in the Register-Guard article a couple of days ago, shows fines to discourage this activity have clearly not worked.

Most of the current fines we’ve imposed over the past two years, year and a half, have gone completely uncollected. They just don’t pay them, with uncollection rates of 85 to 100%! Like, nobody pays them. So this isn’t really surprising because… there’s nothing to indicate that increasing these fines are doing more in this regard is going to change any of this behavior.

[00:03:17] So we do know that imposing more fines on people that are in deep poverty makes it more difficult for them to climb out and to get to stability to get a job and to establish credit. Same is true for impounding vehicles, which people in deep poverty cannot hope to pay their way out of, getting their vehicle back out of impoundment. And if they can’t get their vehicle back, then they’re out on the streets, or worse.

[00:03:41] I’ve said this many times, homelessness is the symptom. We’re treating symptoms. The problems are real, and they’re bad. And for people that are homeless, I’m for the people experiencing the effect of it.

[00:03:52] But the real problem is the absence of affordable housing, the absence of mental health services, and the absence of substance abuse services. We’re 50 out of 50 states for those last two things, 51st if you count Guam for mental health services.

[00:04:06] The problem is these problems have baked for 30–40-50 years and they’re not going to be solved overnight. And to fix homelessness we need to solve the affordable housing crisis and the mental health crisis and the substance abuse crisis. So we’re band-aiding this by dealing with homelessness.

[00:04:26] The solution, as (Councilor) Greg (Evans) said, is not easily done. If it were easily done, we’d have done it a long time ago. I’ve been working on this for 30 years. It’s just a very world-class hard problem. And I’m willing to keep working on it. We know what some of the solutions are. We just need to have more of them.

[00:04:41] So, let’s get to work on things that we know work. We know that safe sleeping sites and parking sites work, I think, and the statistics are all there. That’s not up for question, I think, but we just don’t have enough of it.

[00:04:58] And so we need to think creatively about how to resolve this, because I agree, doing nothing is not an option, but we are far, far from doing nothing. We’re the leaders in Oregon in terms of doing stuff to combat homelessness and address these problems.

[00:05:17] Councilor Jennifer Yeh: I was hoping we would get more feedback from the community about this, but we really didn’t. So I’m really glad folks are here today so we can hear it because I was honestly surprised by how little that we were hearing.

[00:05:28] And I very much agree with (Councilor) Mike (Clark) that people sleeping in cars is not okay, but I’m not sure how taking that car away and now they’re sleeping in a tent or sleeping bag is better.

[00:05:39] So I also agree that doing nothing feels like not the solution, but like (Councilor) Alan (Zelenka) said, we are doing many things and it may be that we need to do more of those things, or maybe we’ll have some opportunities to discuss new options. But this feels to me a little bit like just harassment and tell people, ‘Leave,’ and I’m not okay with that.

[00:06:05] Councilor Matt Keating: Where there’s a gap is the need—the fundamental need—for state and federal dollars for the transitional housing accommodations that we know work right here in Eugene: the rest stops, the emergency, the safe sleep sites. The rest stops in our neighborhood in South Eugene, Nightingale, boasts a 70% rehoming rate. So we should be celebrating that, replicating that, and finding every creative way manageable to fund that.

[00:06:35] John Q: During the public comment period:

[00:06:38] Terri Reed: My name is Terri Reed. I’m a board member of the Santa Clara Community Organization, and I’ll be reading a letter written by my friend, Martha Johnson, who will follow me. And this is about housing. This letter was also signed by the Santa Clara Community Organization board.

[00:06:53] As you know, Eugene has the unfortunate distinction of being the city with the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the United States. Everyone is concerned about it, and everyone seems to have a theory as to how things got this way in our town.

[00:07:07] I and my neighbors from Santa Clara dug into our own pockets to purchase copies of the book “Homelessness Is A Housing Problem” for you and your colleagues and our local government.

[00:07:17] We chose this book because it does a fantastic job of utilizing data to identify the root causes of homelessness. and proposes solutions which target those causes.

[00:07:29] The authors, Gregg Colburn and Clayton Aldern, asked an important question. Why do rates of homelessness vary so much from one city to another? They use data collected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to analyze rates of homelessness and accompanying trends in 30 of the largest cities in the U.S. and their surrounding counties.

[00:07:53] And guess what they found? Homelessness isn’t caused by homeless people migrating where the weather is milder or where better public services are available to them. It isn’t caused by drug addiction or mental illness. Obviously, all these things follow those who encounter homelessness. It isn’t caused by poverty. The author’s notes several cities with very low median income where the rates of homelessness are also quite low.

[00:08:21] The twin problems that do correlate consistently with increased homelessness in a community are high rents, low vacancy rates. In short, when housing is scarce and expensive, more people will end up on the streets.

[00:08:36] I so appreciate you taking up these topics. I really, really do. This problem isn’t going to be solved overnight and we do need to solve it and we can solve it.

[00:08:46] Martha Johnson: How do we solve this problem of homelessness? With more housing.

[00:08:51] In 2017, Minneapolis leaders saw a trend of rising population in their city. They took action. They made changes in land use policy, parking requirements, and building heights to build a lot more housing of all kinds.

[00:09:04] From 2017 to 2022 Minneapolis increased its housing stock by 12%, while rents in that city grew by just 1%. During the same period, the rest of the state increased its housing only 4%, and rents went up 14%. Homelessness surged 14% statewide in Minnesota, but fell by 12% in Minneapolis.

[00:09:27] As the Minneapolis example shows us, increasing the amount of housing not only reduces homelessness, it benefits our community as a whole. We all want to see the problem of homelessness solved in Eugene, and we all want our kids to have housing that’s decent and doesn’t cost more than 30% of their paycheck. The solution to both problems is the same: Build more housing. I and my neighbors in Santa Clara urge you to invest a few hours in reading this book.

[00:09:52] We believe it contains a lot of what’s needed to help guide the creation of plans for the housing that our community so desperately needs. If you’re short on time, look up Gregg Colburn on YouTube. He has a lot of excellent videos that give an outline of his research findings.

[00:10:06] And we hope that the book you’re receiving today will inform future discussions and local government on this very important issue.

[00:10:12] Dylan Plummer: My name is Dylan Plummer. I’m testifying today in my personal capacity to encourage the City Council to take more time to hear from key stakeholders in the community before moving forward with the proposed parking amendment policy.

[00:10:24] Any policy to address concerns about vehicle residency should prioritize preventative measures that help folks access housing and/or safe places to park and avoid punitive measures that further criminalize and stigmatize our vulnerable neighbors living in their vehicles and generally folks experiencing houselessness.

[00:10:41] I agree with the sentiments I heard from Councilors Yeh, Leech, and Zelenka and Keating, instead of further criminalizing individuals experiencing homelessness, I encourage the city to get to work to establish and strengthen preventive programs that keep families housed and allow folks living in their vehicles, safe places to park rather than to pursue punitive measures that will only further exacerbate the issue. I want to just echo what Councilor Zelenka said, let’s get to work on things that we know will work.

[00:11:06] And I also want to thank Councilor Leech for her leadership and for the motion that she put forward tonight.

[00:11:10] Carina Schmidt: My name is Carina Schmidt. I do a lot of work with the houseless community and I’ve had for a number of years. I do weekly street feeds, I help out at a number of camps and I spent a while working at Looking Glass Station 7, which is a shelter for houseless kids.

[00:11:27] And I also used to be houseless. I spent about a year living in my van on the street. And what got me out of the streets was not laws that fined me for existing the only way that I was able to. And it was not cops sweeping all the camps around me. It was the friends and the community that I made. It was friends who let me sleep on their couches and use their addresses to apply for jobs and food stamps.

[00:11:53] It was the church that let me repair my van in their parking lot and it was the co -op that eventually gave me a lease.

[00:12:00] The takeaway from this is simple and this holds true for every person that I’ve seen get housed either within the confines of my job or elsewhere: We get through this by loving each other and by holding each other. Laws of this kind only perpetuate the trauma of being unhoused. They push this problem further down the line by pushing people out of the city and to the edges where they’re invisible but still houseless.

[00:12:25] And it doesn’t fix anything. Where do you want them to go when you’re pushing them further and further away from their community? It makes the problem worse. And it doesn’t help anyone get sober or housed.

[00:12:38] If we want to solve this crisis, then we need humanity and compassion and we need to stop making life difficult for people who are just doing their best to survive.

[00:12:48] Sarah Pishioneri: I am here to express my sheer disappointment and disdain that this council continues to spend staff, time and resources, and the time and resources of all of these people in this room right now, to push back against this thinly-veiled attempts at continuing to harass unhoused people in our community.

[00:13:09] We both know that’s all this is. We know what the intention of this is and yet you continue up on the podium at the same time that you’re telling us that it’s ‘to discourage people from camping in their cars’ as if camping is a choice.

[00:13:24] You’re saying that it’s concern out of not enough parking. You know what it is. It’s the same thing as the dog ban was a few years ago, you remember that? Another thinly-veiled attempt at continuing to harass, isolate, and push to the outside unhoused people. And unhoused people are any of us who happen to fall upon…dire straits and don’t have the support or yeah, anyway.

[00:13:48] I’m only here to share that I don’t want to be here. I have a family and a dinner and all sorts of things that I need to take care of at home. These people in this audience are likely people who are also spending many sleepless nights keeping people alive during ice storms and weather emergencies.

[00:14:13] It’s frustrating. I know you all know what this is and I think once again, I’m disappointed. I appreciate anybody who is on this council that is pushing back against what this is. We are only going to solve homelessness with more affordable housing.

[00:14:35] We have the tools to do it. We have an Affordable Housing Trust Fund Committee, which I’ve served on since 2019. Currently our construction excise taxes are just 0.5%.

[00:14:45] We could up those to 1% or more. I know the city of Corvallis has a much higher construction excise tax. We can invest in, I know that there are some land banks, we can up the land banks and invest in community land trusts.

[00:14:57] There’s all sorts of solutions, and I know myself and plenty of other people in this audience have been providing them to you all.

[00:15:05] Jo O’Harrow: My name is Jo. I’m a Math PhD student and a teacher at University of Oregon. I’m also very busy, but when I saw this, and was told that this was happening, I honestly felt really angry and like I needed to say something.

[00:15:18] I want to state that I oppose the parking amendment policy. I honestly don’t even think it needs further discussion. This is just a way to criminalize poverty and it’s not addressing the actual problem.

[00:15:29] I’m a problem solver. That’s what I get paid to do. I teach people how to do that and this is not solving problems. This is criminalizing poverty and harassing people. Thank you for pointing to the statistics that this is not proven to work and that this is not going to actually have some sort of solution to houselessness.

[00:15:50] I suppose it’s the problem that you’re worried about is people being poor in public and being perceived. Now you get to harass them, so that’s maybe what you want,  but no, this does not solve houselessness. I would like to highlight that there are a lot of streams of change, and you guys are working on some of them. A lot of people in this crowd are working on other channels, mutual aid, housing cooperatives of which I’m a part of one, these are things that help reduce houselessness.

[00:16:20] Slowing rent spikes: Rent is getting horrible. One of my very dear friends became houseless and had to sleep in her car in San Francisco when gentrification got really bad. She was put in a very vulnerable position and thankfully she had a car and was able to stabilize out of that. I honestly like don’t know how she would have responded even if if she couldn’t have had somewhere safe to sleep at night through that.

[00:16:44] And finally I just think like think about the privilege all of you guys are wielding here and when you think about why people are becoming houseless, I know a lot of these people and it’s that… stuff is expensive. Please think about your privilege and think about the stories that people are telling.

[00:17:03] Aya Cockram: My name is Aya Cockram.  I’m speaking tonight in my personal capacity, also as a mother and a former educator. I’m testifying today to express my strong opposition to the proposed vehicle camping ban being considered that was brought up by council this evening and any measures that criminalize being unhoused in our city.

[00:17:21] City Council needs to take more time to hear from all of these people out here and I really applaud City Councilor Leech for bringing her motion forward and for all the city councilors that spoke against such a ordinance.

[00:17:34] So vehicles can offer critical refuge and unhoused populations that are living in vehicles is one of the fastest-growing segments of the unhoused population.

[00:17:44] These vehicles provide protection, especially for vulnerable populations, including women, children, and the elderly. This protection provides shelter from the weather and creates a physical barrier, both of which can save lives.

Further, it is shown that increasing fines only exacerbate stressors that lead to houselessness, like debt and bad credit. And frankly, trying to collect fines and taking people’s homes seems like it would create more problems and cost the city more money, money that could be put towards solutions.

[00:18:10] A member of my family was struggling with physical disabilities and chronic illness, which led to them living in their van. This space kept them safe while they transitioned safely into an apartment. Their story would not have had such a happy ending if they hadn’t had this resource to draw on during this extremely hard time.

[00:18:33] Why limit a resource to a community that is already so exposed and faced with extreme hardship? I urge you to use and draw on solutions that all these folks have been highlighting to you all: creating affordable houses, safe spaces to sleep, instead of creating additional hurdles. You cannot penalize people without offering an alternative.

[00:18:57] Sylvia Gregory: I’m here to oppose the parking / living in one’s car ban. I’m in favor of solutions that will really work for houselessness.

[00:19:08] And I think that the city of Houston, Texas has shown us the solution, and what they’re saying is what they’ve done is reduce their houseless population by 60% since 2011 by putting people in housing with wraparound services, actually. And they had 90% success with that.

[00:19:28] And what they’re saying to other cities is: Do not waste your resources on sweeps, do not waste your resources on tickets for criminal trespass and municipal court appearances and so on and so forth and fines and banning living in your car because it’s not going to solve anything. The only thing that will ever solve this problem is creating affordable housing and putting people in housing.

[00:19:53] Jesselyn Perkins: Hello, my name is Jesselyn Perkins. I was born and raised in the Springfield and Eugene area, and I’ve worked in many different capacities in nonprofits.

[00:20:04] I’ll name a few: Burrito Brigade, Eugene Mission, Egan Warming Centers. Right now, I’m a community officer organizer. I do a lot of work with the Eugene Free Fridges and various other mutual aid projects.

[00:20:16] I say that to underscore the fact that I’ve been seeing the unhoused population and how they’re affected by resource scarcity in this community for my whole life.

[00:20:27] And I’ve seen how accelerated it’s become and how exacerbated it’s become. I think a lot of people have done a really good job speaking on some of the statistics, some of the solutions, some of the pro—

[00:20:40] I oppose the parking thing. I think a lot of people have been doing a really good job talking about that. What I want to say is that we started out this meeting by talking about Indigenous folks in the history, about talking about transgender day of awareness and protection, about talking about women, and every single one of these populations is marginalized and further at risk when poverty is a factor, when class is a factor. So when we talk about further criminalizing poverty, these are the groups that suffer. And that’s an egregious hypocrisy to like claim to be protecting marginalized populations by continuing to criminalize poverty. I cannot state strongly enough how evil that is.

[00:21:25] The other thing that I want to say is that it’s not just the individuals that suffer, it’s the collective. The community health is intrinsically tied to our most marginalized. When you criminalize people for trying to get by, for being poor, for being hungry, you keep the resources that they need out of their grasp, that makes everybody less safe.

[00:21:46] A hungry person is more likely to have a blood sugar crash and an angry outburst on the street. And that’s just really actually so sad. People that don’t have what they need, like people are not the problem, the scarcity of the resources is the problem. And I also know that resources aren’t as scarce as they seem and we do have the power to come up with creative solutions.

[00:22:09] I really appreciated when you said that, we need to be creative. If neighborhoods are complaining about trash, put a dumpster on every corner. If people are talking about unsafe waste disposal, let’s put in a service that deals with that.

[00:22:23] Kamryn Stringfield: My name is Kamryn Stringfield. I’m a member of the Springfield Eugene Anti-Imperialist Coalition.

[00:22:29] I am testifying today to state my strong opposition to the proposed vehicle camping ban being considered by the council and to any measures that criminalize being unhoused in our city.

[00:22:40] Since I have lived here in Eugene, I have come very close to becoming homeless with my entire family multiple times. I live with my mother, stepfather, 76-year-old grandmother, 14-year-old brother, and my very elderly dog. We would have had to live in my minivan to survive. The proposed amendment to the city code in front of the council would criminalize the many Eugene residents that are living in vehicles.

[00:23:10] I will also repeat what I asked you back in December, when we were presenting a resolution for a cease-fire. How does a self-acclaimed city of peace exact this kind of violence and displacement on its most vulnerable population stay true to the principles of peace and respect homeless people of Eugene?

[00:23:35] And while I have time to talk, I just want to share my experience as well, previously living on West 10th Street, which is right near Martin Luther King Park. (By the way, Martin Luther King would not support this ordinance. He was very dedicated in his life to fighting against poverty and the mechanisms under capitalism that exacerbate that.)

[00:23:48] But at Martin Luther King Park and on West 10th Street, we had a lot of people that were either homeless without a vehicle or homeless in a vehicle. And I lived on that street. I was housed, but I was very close many times from being evicted by men with guns and thrown onto this street with my family.

[00:24:12] And I will say that while I was living there, there were multiple times where I would come up and approach officers that were doing a sweep that were criminalizing these homeless people.

[00:24:22] And I used to ask them: ‘Do you think that this is making anything better?’ And they would go, ‘Well I’ve got all these people that tell me we have to do something.’ And I’ve heard that from councilors tonight, ‘I have all these people that say we need to do something.’ But never once did I think that the solution to the problems around me was criminalizing them and it didn’t affect me. What affected me was the cost of living.

[00:24:42] Stone W: My name is Stone and I am a resident of Ward 1. Up until two months ago, I had been homeless for five years and three of those being in my vehicle. I won’t go into why, but I will say I believe most of us here are one or two tragedies from being housing unstable on account (and I haven’t heard anyone really talk about this) of the ordinance, I’m not going to say what the number is, no one cares.

Regarding the graywater being into the watershed, I agree it is a problem that the watershed can get dirty. It’s entirely counterproductive to destroy the semblance of shelter that people have.

[00:25:25] And like, there’s so many other solutions, right? It’s very complex. You could put port-a-potties. You could have graywater stations for people to dump off their RV wastes. There are so many options, and I’m not sure who thought that taking away anyone’s transportation to a bathroom even would somehow improve the watershed. That is crazy. That is anti-homelessness in a very crappy environmentalism wolf’s clothing.

[00:25:56] It’s, like, it doesn’t make any sense. If that was in effect when I was homeless, it might have buried me. You know, I was very suicidal during that time. And, I don’t know if that’s how you’re trying to get homeless people to disappear. So, yeah. Despite our differences, we are all human and we must act with humanity. Thank you, council.

[00:26:22] Dacé Whiteley: My name is Dacé Whiteley. This parking ordinance falls squarely into the category of that most beloved American pastime, punishing the poor for being poor, while we exacerbate the very problem we wish to solve, and continue to blame and wag our fingers at those on the receiving end of our incoherence, all in the name of public safety. What might motivate someone to park and remain in their car for a long period of time, perhaps overnight, somewhere which is illegal? Is it disregard for other people’s well-being? Is it unabashed naughtiness?

I can’t imagine anyone in this room genuinely believes that there are people out there thinking, ‘Well, I could stay in my nice warm bed tonight, but why don’t I go block a mailbox instead?’ Why don’t we all do that? Doesn’t it sound so appealing? Likely because we have the option available not to contort our bodies into small spaces and wake up cold and aching.

[00:27:24] Does it honestly make sense for us to congratulate ourselves about this, for being law-abiding citizens, and to punish those whose options have become sufficiently narrow, but they cross this boundary of the law?

The choice people in this situation have is what is called a bounded choice, one with no good options. Bounded choices are framed as free by people who have tremendously more degrees of freedom than those breaking the law.

[00:27:56] That’s when you get into some really grotesque acts of power-wielding that underlie many privileged people’s gnawing sense of unease, whether they know it consciously or not.

[00:28:08] Ordinances like this which give citations and impound vehicles of economically-marginalized people only push people further into the funnel of homelessness. That is a threat to public safety. The ignorance that drives those of us with more degrees of freedom to punish those of us with with less for having less, that is what drives the erosion of civil society we see all around us. That is what has caused the situation which motivated the drafting of this ordinance. And I assure you, codifying it into law will most certainly worsen the very situation we seek to solve.

[00:28:47] Abraham Kelso: My name is Abraham Kelso. I think it’s imperative that city council take more time. I’m glad that you will to hear from key stakeholders and the community before moving forward with any action on this policy.

[00:29:05] Policies under consideration by this council to address concerns about vehicle residency should prioritize preventative measures that help people access housing and/or safe places to park and avoid punitive measures that criminalize our vulnerable neighbors living in their vehicles.

[00:29:25] Approximately 3,000 or so people are experiencing homelessness in Eugene, based off of some numbers I could find. And HUD reports a vacancy rate from 2019 of around 2.5% and that may be around 2% for the Eugene-Springfield area. With an estimated 155,000 households, that equates to around 4,000 vacant dwellings at any one moment.

[00:29:49] And considering that over 80% of the fines issued between 2022 and 2023 went unpaid, it may be more advantageous for the city to consider a vacancy tax as a more reliable source of funding for the preventative measures mentioned previously.

[00:30:07] Additionally, I am interested in working with the city and other local partners to pursue state funding from the community resilience hubs and networks grants and/or federal funding through the Inflation Reduction Act to find innovative ways to provide more support for our community.

[00:30:24] Erica Dallman: Hi, my name is Erica Dallman, and I am a freelance graphic designer, artist, and musician. As a creative, I am consistently concerned with how I’ll be able to afford my bills, especially my ever-increasing rent. If I lost my income within three months, I’d be living in my vehicle, too, unable to pay the proposed fines. Policies that directly threaten the most economically vulnerable and already unhoused are a deep concern to me.

[00:30:53] Some of you mentioned wanting alternative solutions to this issue. I encourage you to speak to activists and communitarians who are on the ground of the poverty crisis. Many of them are here tonight.

[00:31:05] Instead of finding the most vulnerable in our community and criminalizing their only modes of survival, I urge you to put forth policies that cap rent prices, including RV sites, improve public transport, provide free addiction recovery, and help shift homes from the hands of career landlords to the hands of non-owning Eugene residents.

[00:31:28] I want to echo Jesselyn (Perkins)’s sentiment, if there are waste disposal issues offer waste disposal solutions. If there are long-term parking and access issues, talk to these repeat offenders and find real solutions for their real challenges.

[00:31:43] Fines and sweeps are not only expensive and ineffective. Frankly, they’re lazy.

[00:31:48] Wren Thornton: My name is Wren Thornton. I am against this ordinance. When I was a child, my parents divorced and visitations with my dad tended to look like camping trips in the woods, no matter what the weather was. My dad was living out of his truck and trying to keep it a secret from me, from my brothers, and especially from my mom, because if she or the courts found out, his parental rights would have been in jeopardy. My father worked for the Department of Defense, worked in the Pentagon in the wake of 9/11, and yet the 2008 recession and a bad divorce were enough to leave him temporarily destitute.

[00:32:24] Would fining him for living out of his car have helped or only torn our family further apart?

[00:32:30] During your opening proclamations, you acknowledged the heightened barriers to employment, to housing, and to life that trans and queer people like myself face. According to a study by Williams Institute School of Law, gay people experience homelessness at a rate twice as high as their straight counterparts.

[00:32:49] Trans and all sexual minorities experience homelessness at a rate eight times higher than their straight counterparts. Did the acknowledgement of these facts factor into the idea to fine people sleeping in their cars?

[00:33:01] It seems that you as a council are at a loss of what to do about the homeless crisis. Criminalization is the easy path that brushes the problems under the rug, only to fester and worsen. worsen. Councilman Groves and Clark, you talk about handling the homeless problem on a daily basis. I too have done the same in multiple capacities, as a volunteer with Burrito Brigade and for a time as a security officer at the emergency room hospital in downtown Portland.

[00:33:29] I saw the homeless problem every day and I saw how the hospitals barred these people from life-saving care and I was made to be the enforcement arm of these policies. I wonder how we can work in similar capacities to fight the same problems and seem to have come to very different conclusions about what a solution will look like.

[00:33:48] You say you need a carrot on a stick as the homeless people are stubborn pigs for you to coax into a home. I ask youL: Where is the carrot? Are people not punished already with daily struggles to find food, comfort and hope?

[00:34:03] Bethany Cotton: I’m Bethany Cotton. I’m a homeowner in the heart of the Whit and I interact with my unhoused neighbors daily. Making sleeping in vehicles illegal is absolutely not the way to grapple with the symptoms of our housing crisis.

[00:34:15] I fail to understand how any of you think that making being unhoused more expensive, more stressful, and removing a degree of security that living in a vehicle can provide, especially for women, children, and the elderly could possibly. possibly alleviate the crisis.

The United States Interagency Council on Houselessness states that, in effect, more than half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and one crisis away from houselessness. That crisis could be unexpected medical bills, domestic abuse, job loss, rent increase, loss to fire, or other circumstance. Removing using vehicles as bridge housing may well drive more people who might have been temporarily unhoused into longer-term houselessness.

[00:34:59] It was below freezing several nights last week. Removing the option to sleep in a vehicle makes it more likely that these neighbors could suffer exposure-related illness or even death. Councilors have said that sleeping in your car is not okay and not safe.

[00:35:13] It is far safer than sleeping in a tent or on the streets. Safer from violence, safer from weather. Impounding vehicles means impounding these folks’ food, clothing and meds, depriving them of necessary medications to address health issues. It’s cruel. Let’s please implement additional support for our unhoused community members rather than attempting to hide the symptoms of systemic issues.

[00:35:38] Let’s identify and make rapidly available more safe parking areas and ensure some are not affiliated with religious institutions. Why would you think that increasing fines on our most marginalized community members would somehow increase the likelihood of payments?

[00:35:53] Our city has a budget deficit. Won’t this increase cost to the city to process the fines, tow and store vehicles and process assets forfeiture?

[00:36:02] Finally, you all seem surprised that community members weren’t engaged. That may very well be due to how you described it on the city’s website. You call it ‘parking amendments.’ I doubt many folks read into that criminalizing houselessness.

[00:36:18] I suggest you be more transparent in how proposals are publicly described moving forward to encourage public participation in community decision-making.

[00:36:27] Jetty Etty: Hello, my name is Jetty and I’m a part of Ward 8. I’m a local advocate for humans surviving outside in Eugene.

[00:36:34] I recently collected items that I would need to survive the harsh elements. I left my comfort zone and I spent nine days illegally existing among the people that some of you seem to have a lack of compassion for.

[00:36:46] I say illegally existing because I recently found out it’s illegal to sleep in a tent within the city limits unless you have the homeowner’s permission to do so—but only in the backyard, away from the prying eyes of the public.

[00:36:58] During my nine days I listened, I observed, and I promised to be a megaphone for those that have been intimidated into silence. Living outdoors is pretty terrifying. I would assume that you all have some kind of personal experience living on the streets because if you don’t, what qualifies you to have any input on how to help these people?

[00:37:18] I met a few people whose homes were towed away, never to be seen again. The trauma that has caused them is unrepairable.

[00:37:25] People that have gone missing, never to be returned, sold into human trafficking, and shipped from this country—because they lost their safety to impounding—will never be forgotten.

[00:37:37] The lives lost to overdose—because the trauma was too much and the only way to make it stop was to self-medicate—were more valuable than your gentrified neighborhoods.

[00:37:47] I would highly suggest you all step back and reevaluate why you’re sitting where you are. Gather up your pieces of humanity, put them back together, stop kicking the people who are already down and treat others as you want to be treated.

[00:38:00] I thank you for your time and your consideration and I hope you never have to experience someone coming to take away your most prized belongings, your home and your dignity. And never forget that this is stolen land.

[00:38:12] Sarah Azarael: We do have a homelessness crisis in this country for many reasons. It needs address, but that must be by supporting people into stability. The proposed amendment to the parking ordinance disproportionately targets one of the most vulnerable populations in our country, stripping resources from people that have next to nothing until they have actually nothing.

[00:38:30] It targets people with no good options on where to go, and instead of providing safe and legal places for them to park, it just makes their existence illegal, ramping up fines they don’t have the means to pay.

[00:38:39] The only way this ordinance reduces the impact of homelessness in Eugene is by encouraging the conditions that lead to their deaths or by putting them in jail for the crime of existing in poverty.

[00:38:48] This ordinance actively hinders homeless people from getting back on their feet by instead promoting their destabilization.

[00:38:54] A vehicle provides shelter, the ability to accrue belongings or resources, and a way to flexibly travel to resources and work opportunities.

[00:39:01] The increases to fines are brutal on people that already lack resources and are doing their best to survive. You can’t fine people out of being pulled or destabilized. Increasing punishments on people with nowhere to go for being in the wrong place is to pursue an out-of-sight, out-of-mind solution that doesn’t care that its solution to homelessness is to let people die so long as you don’t have to look at them while they do, so long as they aren’t inconvenient.

[00:39:25] I consider anyone continuing to support this ordinance to either be foolish, blind to how it will function in reality, or they do understand and are okay with their solution resulting in the criminalization, imprisonment, or indirect murder of vulnerable people.

[00:39:38] Use our taxes to provide more resources and spaces for homeless people, not for criminalizing poverty. We need more resources that lead to long-term stabilization and housing of vulnerable people and the assistance to support people in accessing and maintaining access to those resources.

[00:39:53] You were talking about sanitary concerns, provide legal accessible options for disposal. Where there is a lack, provide publicly-accessible free, accessible means of meeting that need. There’s trash issues, but you have to pay to throw away trash in the state. That encourages littering. Provide options for them to meet the need that is creating an issue.

[00:40:19] Rebecca Amodeo: My name is Rebecca Amodeo. I’m a resident in the River Road neighborhood. I am disabled and I am very upset that I’m forced to attend in person and can’t give any comments over Zoom. And while today I am housed, a homeowner even, I have been your unhoused neighbor living in my vehicle a lot over the past decade plus.

[00:40:45] I am an overnight volunteer with Egan Warming Center. I strongly oppose the proposed parking ban ordinance and the fundamental approach of finding and criminalizing homelessness. Mayor, this ordinance will disproportionately harm the people, your proclamations claim to seek to honor, welcome, and protect.

Councilor Groves, I lived in my vehicle in Ward 8. If you want existing laws to enforce that can help this situation, please put your attention on the abuse of slumlords around the city, like the several that abused me into homelessness over the years.

[00:41:26] Councilor Clark, I reject your statement that we need to protect people from the danger of sleeping in their cars. It is paternalistic, misogynistic, and disgusts me.

[00:41:38] I thank my neighbors who have shown up to oppose this tonight and to bring up other important topics, such as divestment from genocide. And especially for those who, like me, it is very traumatic to speak about our homelessness in front of people who wield the state violence but demand that we are polite and calm to keep them comfortable. Thank you neighbors and free Palestine.

[00:42:03] Tara Garkow: My name is Tara Garkow and I speak to you as a representative of the Board of Directors at the Springfield Eugene Tenant Association.

[00:42:11] I’ve spent the last five years working as a case manager up the street at Lane County’s housing agency. And before that, I worked at a local mental health agency as a housing navigator. There’s so much work being done to combat houselessness in this city.

[00:42:26] And with all due respect, I find Councilor Clark and Councilor Groves’s statements about us doing nothing incredibly insulting. You all know that Eugene has one of the worst housing crises in the state of Oregon. We actually have the unfortunate award of the highest homelessness population per capita and the second-highest housing costs in the entire country.

[00:42:48] The facts make it clear that for lower-income people in Eugene, it is already nearly impossible to end the cycle of poverty. With this knowledge, why would the city of Eugene now make it even harder to escape that cycle?

[00:43:02] It is essential to recognize that many individuals and families living in their vehicles and RVs are doing so out of necessity, rather than choice. The lack of affordable housing options and the growing homelessness crisis have forced many people into living in vehicles as a last resort. These individuals are already facing immense challenges including economic instability, lack of access to healthcare and discrimination. Punishing them further through unreasonably strict rules. Regulation and increased penalties only exacerbates their hardship and does nothing to address the root causes of homelessness.

[00:43:37] Councilor Yeh that she was shocked at the lack of public comment on this issue. With only one person who publicly testified on a critical issue such as homelessness, it is clear that not all sides of this issue have been heard. We must have a Council that is direct and transparent in its work, not attempting to sneak further criminalization of the homeless inside otherwise innocuous ordinances.

[00:44:04] Thank you for delaying this vote and I urge you to remove the harmful recommendations that would only further Eugene’s homelessness crisis.

[00:44:13] Donna Lynne: My name is Donna Lynne. I’ve been houseless here in Eugene off and on for about 16 years. I moved here from California with my happily-never-after. He left me and took our daughter. I fell into a deep depression. I contracted bacterial meningitis, almost died, was in a coma for a little over a month, just wake up to hear that my hero, my best friend, my mom, is not—doesn’t have long. (Please bear with me.)

When I woke up from the coma, I had no memory of what occurred between my ex and I, or the whereabouts of my daughter. And then the news with my mom, let’s just say my downward spiral was so fast, when I hit bottom, I dented the dirt. Got a black eye and a few missing teeth, but I’m okay. I lived in my van here in Eugene, having trouble getting back on my feet.

[00:45:08] The only stability I’ve had the past three years is my cat and my van, which I can barely afford (my van, that is). I worked really hard to get it. I did it legitimately. No funny business. I’m just trying to live the best I can with what I know how.

[00:45:28] What I have may not look like much to others, but it’s my everything.

[00:45:36] Madeline Cowen: Hi, my name is Madeline Cowen. I’m testifying today to state my strong opposition to the proposed vehicle camping and any measures that criminalize being unhoused in our cities.

[00:45:47] I’m very privileged to be housed currently and I recognize the vulnerability that people have shown sharing the stories of their homelessness with you tonight. I agree with others in that this proposed amendment would further criminalize the many Eugene residents that are living in vehicles.

[00:46:03] This simply is not a viable solution for our unhoused neighbors. The city must continue to expand existing resources and develop new programs to support unhoused neighbors and individuals and families living in their vehicles, not further burden them with the threat of impoundment or fines and fees that they cannot pay.

Many have brought very viable solutions to you tonight: increasing safe legal parking zones with sanitation solutions; solutions for affordable housing funded by taxing on the many vacant affordable homes; and other many very realistic solutions based in humanity and love for our neighbors, and not criminalization and hate.

[00:46:45] I hope you’ve been taking notes, and thank you Councilor Leech for your leadership on this issue.

[00:46:50] Jacob Trewe: Jacob Trewe here, he/him. Normally, I’m here from Eugene Springfield Democratic Socialists of America, but tonight I’m here in my personal capacity as a parent and resident of Ward 1. I oppose the efforts to impose greater restrictions and penalties on poor folks living in their cars.

[00:47:07] I’m a tax accountant. Right now is one of the absolute busiest times of the year for me, and I’m running on an hour less of sleep due to daylight savings time and having some young kids.

[00:47:15] I see a lot of folks’ finances, and most everyone here that you’ve seen talking to you and most of the folks you represent are just one or two crises away from living out of their cars. Criminalizing poverty doesn’t make people stop being poor.

[00:47:28] It just makes poor folks poorer. Forcing folks living on the margins to have yet another burden placed on their precarious positions is not only cruel, but bad policy.

[00:47:39] Are you expecting folks to sell their remaining meager belongings or their car to pay for the fees that you’ve levied upon them? How would that help house our neighbors? Criminalizing the poverty of working-class folks will not solve Eugene’s homeless problem. Housing will.

[00:47:55] I grew up in Santa Clara and I want to commend the efforts of the Santa Clara Neighborhood Association to emphasize that, yes, homelessness is a housing problem. I encourage folks to read that book. I haven’t read it myself, but I’ll take a look at it later on if I get a chance. Probably after tax season. (Let’s see.)

[00:48:13] So we need a city council that will fight for low-income housing. Social housing paid for by the government for the benefit of the people is the best and most straightforward solution. The misplaced priorities demonstrated by spending more money on the police and carceral solutions rather than housing is a big part of how we got there.

[00:48:28] I don’t agree with (Councilor) Alan Zelenka on all that many things, but I definitely agree with Alan Zelenka that this isn’t a simple problem that’s been developing just now. It’s been going on for a long time.

[00:48:37] With that, I do like (Councilor Randy) Groves’s proposal that whenever housing is taken away from somebody living on the street that we replace it with three safe sleep spot sites for people who used to be living in their cars. I like that a lot. So I’d like to look forward to a proposal along those lines, if you get a chance. Thank you now.

[00:48:55] Spencer McIntyre: My name is Spencer McIntyre, and I’m here to voice my strong opposition to the parking ordinance and any policy that criminalizes folks experiencing poverty and homelessness. You’ve heard people tonight speak about how this affects a variety of different demographics, but tonight I want to share a story of how it affects single mothers, families, and children.

[00:49:12] Mayor (Lucy) Vinis, tonight you spoke about Women’s History Month. Let me tell you all about a woman who fought to secure mine and my family’s survival with the resources she had at her disposal.

[00:49:25] In 2008, during the days of the recession,my mom, a single mom of three kids, moved into an RV, and all of us into an RV after our house was violently, violently foreclosed upon.

[00:49:36] We lived in that RV for a little over a year after the foreclosure of our house. And that, at that time, was worth less than what my mom had actually already paid towards it. We resided in the RV while we sought affordable rent and a job that could pay a living wage for my mom to support us on.

[00:49:52] The four of us survived in that RV, all while she encouraged me to continue to get a quality education, which eventually led me to having nearly my entire college education funded. I share this to paint a picture of the realities of how people experiencing homelessness actually live and who we actually are.

[00:50:08] Without having alternatives where people can go to live in their homes, RVs and vehicles, without offering affordable rent, living wages, accessible healthcare, harm reduction services, and other services that help folks meet their basic needs, passing an ordinance like this is a cruelty, forcing folks who already live on the fringes even more into the fringes, grasping to their dignity.

These people are our neighbors, our artists, our musicians, our first responders to overdose, our friends, our workers, and beyond that, these are human beings navigating times with extreme wealth disparity. Instead of offering help and safe alternatives, you are casting out our most vulnerable by waging a continuous assault on the poor. It is not a crime to be poor.

Councilor Groves, protecting our whole community starts with protecting our most vulnerable. And protecting our most vulnerable protects our whole community. Thank you.

[00:51:00] John Q: Councilors and the public comment March 11 on a parking ordinance that targets the homeless.


Data courtesy Heather Marek. Note: Calculations were made based on data at the time that the court produced the records, in December 2023, and do not account for the individuals who were charged and fined subsequently after Dec. 1, 2023. A higher number of fines are likely in collections today; it is also possible that people made payments on those debts, though, as records show, unlikely. We do not know how those debts may have increased due to interest charged.

Eugene Code (EC)Description#CasesFines ImposedAmount UncollectedIn Collections
4.815Camping66$11,11399%56%
4.830Unlawful use of the public way47$5,742 1100%45%
5.135 (1)Storage on street929$43,42085%36%
5.135 (2)Expired /no tags license plate4,575$416,23562%23%
5.225 (3)(E)Locations prohibited for motorbuses and motor trucks8$37593%0%

1 77% against unhoused individuals

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