RANDY GROVES

Eugene City Councilor Ward 8

News

Pursuit of Safe Sleep sites a costly, fraught proposition

This article does a good job of explaining Eugene's Safe Sleep Site concept, the associated costs, and the challenges with finding contractors, working with supply chain limitations, finding site management resources and hearing concerns from people connected to adjoining properties. To our friends who are county residents and claim that this is a "Eugene problem," which I hear frequently, please note that the first camp occupant profiled in this article is a woman who was displaced by the Holiday Farm Fire. She is from unincorporated Lane County. Based on my discussions with campers, residents, businesses, workers, my responder colleagues and my past experience as a responder, most are from somewhere other than Eugene! This is a regional, state and national problem and we should be receiving help from outside of our city. Not to pick on the woman from Blue River, and she has my deepest sympathy, but when I voted as a city councilor to approve the five Safe Sleep Sites being developed, I thought I was voting to approve space for people who are indigent and living on our streets, in our parks and publics spaces. People who have nothing and nowhere to go. This woman says she is paying on a property in La Pine Oregon. What? The Safe Sites are NOT intended for those seeking a less expensive life style and wish to save money, they are intended for those who truly cannot afford to go anywhere else. While we have to get people off of our streets for the health and welfare of our entire community, including the unhoused, the cost of providing these spaces and meeting the requirements imposed by our federal courts is staggering and NOT sustainable if cities like Eugene are expected to shoulder the load alone. Finally, a personal beef with our local media. In every article I've read on our unhoused problem, the focus seems to primarily be on Washington/Jefferson Park and the encampment on W. 13th Avenue. While these areas are most definitely problem areas, there is nary a comment about the hundreds of RVs, trailers and campers filling the streets of West Eugene where some of the worst crime is taking place. There is also a dearth of reporting on the problems still plaguing our downtown and the Whiteaker neighborhood. To any reporter reading this post, please step away from your desk, go out into our community and take a look! If you cannot find your way to West Eugene, call me and I will personally pick you up and take you for a tour! I can show you the problem up close. I can also show you streets that have been cleared and cleaned and talk about the positive impact on businesses and workers in those locations. Businesses that had let their properties decline and were looking to relocate. But after clearing and cleaning, many have reinvested in their businesses and the jobs they create for our community. Some who were ready to leave have now even talked about expansion. Sadly though, many streets are still in terrible shape and some businesses have already left or are still leaving because they have lost faith in our City and our system. Please stay informed on this work, help where you can, and raise your voice so that you are heard and counted as to what you believe to be the right thing. I also ask that you become informed so that you understand the limitations placed on your local governments as you judge their performance. I for one feel like we have had these challenges thrust upon us, over years, and many of the possible solutions have been removed from the table without our input.

07 November 2021

Apparent hostage situation at UO ends in arrest

Another dangerous situation highlighting the mental health crisis we and many communities are facing. All too often mental health problems default to our police officers and firefighters as the last line of defense because we have failed to address the problem earlier in the process. We the public are then dissatisfied with the outcome and blame our responders when it is the system we created that has failed. Health and human services, which includes mental health, is a function of county and state government in Oregon, but like our unhoused problem, it is something that effects everyone, and all levels of our government need to work effectively with one another to address this situation. Likewise, our non-profit organizations must work seamlessly and effectively if we hope to bring this problem under control. I know that many of you here locally are thinking, what about CAHOOTS? In fact, I hear many people - with no street level response experience - describe CAHOOTS as the panacea to all of our problems. I agree that CAHOOTS is an important component of our response system and ideally positioned to respond to a band of non-violent or the most basic of medical incidents, but CAHOOTS like police and fire, needs a place to take many of the people they encounter. Otherwise it is like having a good ambulance system but no hospital, or a police force with no jail or alternative facility to provide help. Our mental health system needs a back end to effectively address this problem.

05 November 2021

How has Measure 110 measured up

The two keys in addressing drug addiction are preventing drug misuse in the first place and treating those who have fallen into the downward spiral of addiction. As a former career firefighter, I responded all too often to calls where I saw first hand the adverse psychological and physiological effects of drug addiction on individuals, and the collateral damage inflicted upon their families and our community. BM 110, passed by Oregon voters in 2020 securing 58% of the vote decriminalized drug possession in amounts for personal misuse with the intent of getting the addicted into treatment. While I believe that voters thought they were doing the right thing, this change in law and practice has proven to be a dismal failure for a variety of reasons. Many of those working close to the problem predicted this outcome. For the misuser, addiction is powerful force and too few are strong enough, motivated enough, or care enough to voluntarily enter and complete treatment. The choice to confront one's addiction also requires continued work post treatment to remain drug free. I specifically remember one call many years ago involving a young man who was experiencing withdrawals from the lack of having opiates in his system. He was in agony. When I asked him to describe what he was feeling he responded (paraphrased) that it was like the worst flu you could ever have multiplied by a factor of 10. Considering that one can replace the symptoms of withdrawal with euphoria for $5 to $10, it's no wonder that many who suffer from addiction are unwilling and unable to fight this demon on their own, or even willing to voluntarily seek treatment. As a society we need to come up with new strategies for addressing this problem, a problem that plagues people from every strata of our society, but is especially prevalent in our unhoused community. BM 110 is not the answer the voters of Oregon were seeking. We need to go back to the drawing board and find better ways to address this problem.

29 October 2021

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