EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – Occupy Eugene
is cleaning up their campsite following a city council meeting that took place December 14th and granted the group an extension until January 11th.
At the meeting, council agreed that at any given time, if necessary, the extension could be revoked. Occupy Eugene says they are not taking this information lightly.
Keith Hernandez told NewsSource 16 that the peacekeepers are now taking it upon themselves to clear out unwanted substances and weapons. Those who are causing problems or giving Occupy Eugene bad light will be evicted peacefully.
“On the first night, we did some evictions the first night and it went absolutely well, we got six tents out of here and in those six tents, total wise, we found 70 syringes,” he said.
He admitted there were some problems with the camp, including some ‘chop shops,’ that had to go.
According to Keith, the group wants to stay at the site as long as possible and keep Occupy going too. In order to do that, they have to comply with police and city officials, address the stated concerns including sanitation and safety and more. While they are still advocating for the homeless and unemployed, they do not want to look like a ‘homeless camp.’
Eugene Police has agreed to submit a daily report
and post those reports online recording observations, complaints and concerns they receive regarding Occupy. On December 14th, the day of the city council meeting, there were no issues except some illegal burns. On December 13th, there was allegedly a lot of police activity including an arrest due to an unlawful use of a weapon and strangulation.
On Thursday afternoon, Occupy Eugene planned to begin building structures to move people out of tents and into covered territory. They told NewsSource 16 they hoped it would not only teach useful skills of carpentry and teamwork, but also help the homeless learn about ‘community.’
They also planned to celebrate their extension at the end of the week with a party in their general assembly area.
Eugene Police also released this week that it has cost the department about $115,000 dollars to patrol Occupy so far.
With the extension city council allowed, the city plans to create a transitional task force before January 11th to help establish and add facilities and services for the homeless to take advantage of. That money, according to city council, will come from council contingency, parks and open space maintenance, street maintenance and gang prevention programs. The city was not able to say what projects would be affected by the new allocation of funds as the funds were merely in the budget to be used however necessary.
Saint Vincent DePaul
said Thursday they would be more than willing to act in the transitional task force put forth by the city. They already offer a lot of services that could be used, but said they work with the city to do what ever else they can. The possibility of ‘wet beds,’ – the idea of facilities for those with addiction problems – has been put on the table for the first time in decades and Saint Vincent DePaul said it would act on that as well when able.
Terry McDonald, executive director of Saint Vincent DePaul, said the non-profit is glad to see there is some light on the homelessness problem now. Yet, it remains an individual effort.
“Where ever you are or are thinking into the Christmas season, there is a time for all of us to try and remember those who don’t have a house. After all, we are talking about a vulnerable population who has few options,” McDonald said.
He added that work places have to be willing to employ those people otherwise it makes the homeless stay homeless. For Occupy and other homeless to get back on their feet, the resources have to be available. With Saint Vincent DePaul’s help, the city stepping in and other non-profit agencies stepping in to work together, McDonald is hoping to see a change.
Occupiers, however, told us Thursday that the same services have always been there.
“If I wanted to go the Egan Warming Center, I could do that,” said Hernandez.
He said a lot of Occupiers feel the same in that their situation and homelessness was caused by corporations so they don’t exactly want help from the same sources that put them there. Others said they don’t understand where they would be transitioned to, since they have yet to get a job why would they in the future. In addition, the majority of the group wants to be allocated a permanent camp. City council implied in December 14th‘s meeting, however, that a permanent camp was unlikely to happen due to the time it would require to zone and apply properly and because they do not see the success rate valuable. There is no telling how many occupiers would actually use the services offered by the transitional task force unless it is a permanent camp.
City council plans to meet again after their break to further discuss the issues surrounding Occupy Eugene. EPD will continue to heavily patrol the site and says it will cost between $4,000 and $5,000 dollars to do so per every half day.