July 14, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Jetty Etty: Homeless told ‘just go to the tracks, and we’ll find you housing’

9 min read
Jetty Etty says a Community Court program connects unhoused neighbors with housing services. "But the truth is, there isn't housing available. So they get added to a waitlist for housing. And then a lot of organizations here, ones that are, like, paid by the city, are telling them, 'Just go to the tracks and we'll find you housing.' "

by DJ Suss D

I went to the Municipal Court demo on June 26 to support the people that had been fined for helping trying to help people that were being removed from a railroad track sweep of the homeless.

[00:00:18] DJ Suss D: All right. What’s your name and organization?

[00:00:20] Jetty Etty: My name is Jetty and I’m with the BareFoot Defenders.

[00:00:21] DJ Suss D: All right, so you’re out here on Lincoln and 1102 Lincoln, in front of the courthouse. Why are you out here today?

[00:00:30] Jetty Etty: In January as the ice storm started, I was out doing outreach along the Seneca railroad tracks, helping a 73-year-old woman that I found under a tarp. She had blue lips and was super cold so I went and got her a tent and supplies to keep her warm for the storm and I was ticketed along with other unhoused people living along railroad tracks and so…

[00:00:54] DJ Suss D: Ticketed for trespassing?

[00:00:55] Jetty Etty: Yeah, Criminal Trespass 1, which is the most severe trespass ticket you can get.

[00:01:01] DJ Suss D: Just for helping people though, not for living?

[00:01:04] Jetty Etty: No, just for helping people. And then I was out there again because that same camp had lice and scabies and I was bringing supplies out and cleaning tents and I was to get it again. So now I have two Criminal Trespass 1 tickets that I’m fighting here in court. Today is my trial readiness case and on July 11 I have trial, a jury trial, and then on August 1, I have another jury trial.

[00:01:35] They told me that if I didn’t take their plea deals that they would tack on two additional charges, which they did. One of them is Interfering With Police and one of them is like Interfering With Government Officials and so and I’m looking at facing two years in jail and like, let’s say, $14,000 or something in fines and—

[00:02:00] DJ Suss D: This is, but this is your public defender is making this deal for you?

[00:02:05] Jetty Etty: He offered it, the prosecutor offered it to us and my public defender came to me with it. He knows that I’m going to take it to jury trial. So I have no plans on backing down because I don’t think I’m guilty of trespassing.

[00:02:17] DJ Suss D: So well, what happens in the jury trial? Will you have representation?

[00:02:21] Jetty Etty: Yeah, I have a public defender and he is a bankruptcy lawyer.

[00:02:26] DJ Suss D: So, is he qualified for a jury trial?

[00:02:29] Jetty Etty: I don’t necessarily know. I would say no, probably not, ’cause he’s not a criminal defense lawyer. I did have a criminal defense lawyer at the beginning, but he dropped my case. He said it was conflict of interest.

[00:02:42] I’m not the only one fighting these tickets right now. It’s myself along with two other housed people and two unhoused people. And we are trying to do a joint defense agreement, but the Municipal Court has been fighting us on that. It’s been really crazy.

[00:02:58] DJ Suss D: There’s a public defender shortage is partly why you can’t get real representation which is kind of unconstitutional.

[00:03:04] Jetty Etty: Yeah, you would think so.

[00:03:07] DJ Suss D: So I heard there’s a reason these sweeps are happening at the railroad. There’s apparently there’s a railroad cop that comes here once a year, you know about this?

[00:03:15] Jetty Etty: Yeah, his name is Vince. He covers, I believe it’s northern California, Oregon, and Washington. So we know when Vince’s in town things are going to go down. And currently the four camps along the tracks that he’s sweeping are the four largest camps that I know of in Eugene and once these people are swept, that’s about 200 people that have been displaced and pushed out even further out of the city. And that’s, I think what their goal is, is to push them out of the city.

[00:03:45] So they’ve started near the tracks on Roosevelt—it’s all Union Pacific, the Coos Bay Line—and they’re pushing them further out towards Green Hill.

[00:03:55] And so yesterday they started at what we call the four-way, and they said that they’re just doing cleans. So they’re just going around and throwing away trash, but if somebody is not occupying their tent at the time, they’re taking their tents and throwing them away.

[00:04:35] The thing to realize is a lot of unhoused people are constantly getting tickets and criminalized. And then if they’re not able to make it down here to downtown Eugene, because they’ve been pushed out to the end skirts of the city, then they get a warrant. And so there’s a lot of people who have warrants, so as soon as they see or hear a cop, they’re running and they’re leaving their tents. And so now their tents are getting thrown away. (Right.)

[00:04:32] And so one of the things that we’re trying to do is get people out there to occupy their tents while they’re not there and just to make sure that the police are acting right and following the rules and we’re just protecting and defending our friends that are so, like, battered by the city.

[00:04:49] DJ Suss D: And that’s what’s going to happen today.

[00:04:52] Jetty Etty: Yeah, so yesterday we went to the first, we did all day yesterday spent the whole day helping people get their stuff moved or picked up. And then there’s another crew of people out there this morning and they’re still at that same camp So it’s going to be like several days of just non-stop sweeps and it’s exhausting work.

[00:05:10] DJ Suss D: And where, is there any place for them to go?

[00:05:12] Jetty Etty: No, we don’t know where they—

[00:05:14] DJ Suss D: All right, so what’s the solution? What should we be doing? What is it? Is it against a lot of the indigent? Hasn’t our society caused the indigence and shouldn’t, aren’t we responsible for this indigence?

[00:05:26] Jetty Etty: I mean, I think that technically the city can’t criminalize people just for the mere fact of being unhoused, but they like to cover that with trespassing, with violating park rules, with disorderly conduct. If you look in the police logs of what they’ve done and you see those, trespass, disorderly conduct, or violating park rules, that’s essentially that’s being people being criminalized for being homeless.

[00:05:55] DJ Suss D: Well when I look at the police logs about 30% of their, more than 30% of their calls are doing this so they’re spending all this money doing that that could be spent actually helping people, right?

[00:06:07] Jetty Etty: Right, well, their excuse is that now they have Community Court every Wednesday where people can come get sack lunch and take advantage of all of the resources that they have here and—

[00:06:20] DJ Suss D: Quote ‘resources,’ right.

[00:06:21] Jetty Etty: And so they criminalize them by sending them to a Community Court where they go through a program and they supposedly, they get lured in with this, like, being told, like, ‘Oh, if you come here, you can get housing.’

But the truth is, there isn’t housing available. So they get added to a waitlist for housing. And then a lot of organizations here, ones that are, like, paid by the city, are telling them, ‘Just go to the tracks and we’ll find you housing.’ They’re getting sent to the tracks by city-paid organizations, outreach organizations, and it makes no sense.

[00:06:46] DJ Suss D: Right, alright, I’ll wrap it up, but so there’s no affordable housing, how do we get affordable housing? I mean, I see a lot of vacancies and a lot of boarded-up buildings. (Yeah.) I suggested to the city council that they use the commercial property for temporary housing, downtown commercial property. There’s a lot of empty commercial housing here.

[00:07:14] Jetty Etty: I can’t remember exactly what country it is right now, but there’s a country that has like basically solved homelessness by taking these empty warehouses and turning them into little studio apartments and giving them to them.

[00:07:25] And one of the great things is, it’s not like you have to be clean to live in this apartment. It’s like, because we recognize, they recognize that like people are doing drugs because of trauma responses and because of survival, and it’s hard and so it’s like: Let’s get you into a stable place where maybe after you’re there for a little bit and your trauma is kind of calmed down, you guys can like wean yourself off of drugs.

[00:07:46] It’s kind of brilliant and it’s kind of beautiful and the city has money to fund these you know huge freaking projects like new stadiums, we have the money to turn warehouses.

[00:07:58] DJ Suss D: Or they put boulders underneath the freeway offramps. They seem to have money to do that.

[00:08:02] Jetty Etty: Oh yeah, they have all kinds of things they do to people to keep unhoused people out of areas they don’t want: fencing, boulders, weird lights, ‘Baby Shark’ music playing, blasting, like it’s ridiculous, the things they do.

[00:08:15] DJ Suss D: Well, and isn’t this ‘Manifest Destiny’ too? We have a use for that property that you’re not that you’re leaving go to waste, so it’s your own your own philosophy of ‘Manifest Destiny,’ we have a right to that property.

[00:08:28] Jetty Etty: Right. Yeah, and I think it’s important for housed people who are like, ‘We’re sick of them stealing things from us.’ Every time there is a sweep, the city is coming and stealing from them. And so, why would they not think that they can go steal from people? Because that’s the example our city is setting for them. Like, this is survival and it’s not pretty and it’s not fun and it sucks. And so if other people want their shit to get stopped getting stolen, then they should get up and stand up and try to find these people housing and stuff, like, try to break that cycle of survival, because that is what it is.

[00:08:57] DJ Suss D: Anything else? How do people get involved?

[00:09:00] Jetty Etty: We’re the BareFoot Defenders. You can find us on Instagram, you can find us on Facebook or you can email me personally at jettyetty@proton.me.

[00:09:15] DJ Suss D: All right, any events coming up?

[00:09:17] Jetty Etty: We have something coming up in July 15-20. The location has yet to be determined and we probably won’t drop it till it’s closer to those dates, but we’ll be doing a weeklong action so people can come sleep. And we’re going to have lots of like homeless, the resources that people can take advantage of coming and doing and taking a part of it.

[00:09:39] DJ Suss D: All right, thanks for your time. Thanks for doing this. (Yeah, thank you.)

[00:09:43] DJ Suss D: Homeless advocates say they will pressure municipalities to use funding wasted on criminalization of the homeless for restorative services and low-cost housing to raise people out of the downward spiral of indigency and create a more reciprocal society.

For KEPW News, I’m DJ Suss D.

KEPW News invited Eugene to respond to Jetty Etty’s statements, and asked whether the city endorses the message from city-paid workers that homeless persons should “just go to the tracks” while waiting for housing.

The city said if such a message were to be coming from a shelter provider, the city would advise them to not tell anyone to trespass on private property. Kelly McIver wrote, “Being connected to services, being enrolled in the County system and getting on a waiting list for housing is a good thing. The resources don’t exist in our area to immediately offer housing. Local agencies such as the city, Lane County, and social service providers, are working with the State of Oregon to try to increase funding and production for housing and shelter, to close the gap in need.

“Trespassing on private property is illegal and may result in citation, though often people are advised without citation. Private property owners may exercise a right to have a trespassing person cited. The fact that Community Court exists as an alternative to regular Municipal Court is a good thing and offers people with personal challenges such as being unhoused, a pathway to assistance rather than fines and incarceration. Read about the program here: https://www.eugene-or.gov/3337/Community-Court

“Besides offering less-punitive justice system outcomes, Community Court is also helping to create more safe, legal places for people to be. Here is a Community Court grant program that created a new shelter for designated Court participants: https://www.eugene-or.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=6471.”

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