RANDY GROVES

Eugene City Councilor Ward 8

Register Guard: Officials approve 3 more Safe Sleep sites

30 September 2021

 Randy Groves

A perspective from Councilor Groves: Eugene needs to stand up these sanctioned camp sites. While I agree that this is not a solution to homelessness, it is a step to moving people to a better and safer way of life while returning our streets, parks, public spaces and right-of-ways to their intended purposes. Once we have adequate space, we need to reinstate the enforcement of our City's codes and ordinances, and develop a plan for how we address those who refuse to follow them. I am hopeful for the future but there is still a lot of hard work ahead for us as a community. Once again, I want to thank our business community for stepping up to help us improve our current situation!

Officials approve 3 more Safe Sleep sites

One location could open as early as Monday

Megan Banta Eugene Register-Guard USA TODAY NETWORK

Eugene officials approved three more Safe Sleep sites Wednesday.

That brings the total number of sites where people without shelter legally can sleep in their car, a tent or a provided structure to five — one of which could open as early as Monday.

The City Council in July unanimously approved two sites — one on the city’s west side and the other on the northeast side.

All but one councilor voted to approve three more sites, all on the city’s west side, during a work session Wednesday.

Councilor Mike Clark, who voted against approving the sites, said he’s in favor of a limited number of Safe Sleep sites but thinks the policy around them lacks teeth to compel people to stop camping illegally.

Staff plan to open the approved sites as quickly as possible and bring more sites back to the council for approval as they reach that point in the process.

Challenges in opening approved sites

The city has come across obstacles in opening the two approved Safe Sleep sites quickly.

Matt Rodrigues, the city’s public works director, said there have been

Costly Cleanups

To read more about the city of Eugene’s handling of places for people to sleep, including a look at how Safe Sleep sites work into Eugene’s homeless plan, go to https://bit.ly/CostlyCleanups

Sleep

various challenges, including securing providers, getting materials and finding a contractor that’s available to complete needed work.

Between those and other delays, he said, “it can be complicated to get sites together, even once they’re approved.”

One of the first two approved sites is “very close” to opening, Rodrigues said.

The site near the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Garfield Street could open as soon as Monday, he said, but that depends on weather.

Crews still need to pour some concrete and have striping work to do to get the 5-acre site fully ready for up to 55 vehicles, he said.

The second site approved in July is in a “holding pattern,” Rodrigues said.

Plans still call for Chase Commons, a neighborhood park on the northeast side, to house up to 20 Conestoga huts.

Staff are working to identify a service provider for the site, Rodrigues said, and address concerns from neighbors and businesses.

Three new sites on west side

Councilors on Wednesday approved an additional three SafeSleep sites. The first is a 3.3-acre site at 2243 Roosevelt Blvd., owned by Square- One Villages. There are six pallet shelters on the site, and the approval given Wednesday means that could expand to 40 total sleeping units, likely in the form of more pallet shelters.

The second is a 3.55acre privately owned property just north of the intersection of Dani and Janisse streets. The site will be called EveryOne Village and is in partnership with EveryOne Church.

Initial plans call for up to 30 spaces at first in a mix of vehicles and small shelters.

Finally, officials also approved use of a 2.88acre site just south of the previously approved site at Second Avenue and Garfield Street.

The city will lease the privately owned site, which has a 27,300square-foot building that could hold up to 90 tent spaces. There’s also an area outside the building that could serve as space for Conestoga huts, pallet shelters or vehicles.

St. Vincent de Paul, which is operating the other site on Garfield, is potentially on board to operate this site as well.

‘Can’t be open fast enough’

Officials were largely supportive of the three new sites. Clark, who voted against opening them, did it because of what he sees as a gap in the city’s policy. “I’m in favor of us creating Safe Sleep sites on a limited scale. I am very much against the idea of building more and more and more of them but without the added backstop of an equal effort to end the idea of unsanctioned camping,” Clark said. “That’s the policy piece that’s missing for me.”

Clark added it seems the city is assuming that “if we build it, they’ll go.”

Yet there’s a full list of people wanting to move in to the site at Second Avenue and Garfield Street, according to Assistant Manager Kristie Hammitt.

Councilor Claire Syrett said the Safe Sleep sites aren’t a solution to homelessness, but rather a strategy to create legal, safer places that help people get out of the cycle of homelessness.

“Leaving people to fend for themselves on our streets, sidewalks or in the bushes is not going to provide for that same kind of opportunity and improvement,” Syrett said.

And councilors are eager for the sites to be ready for use.“These sites can’t be open fast enough, in my opinion,” Councilor Randy Groves said.

Officials did express some concerns over funding. Currently, the city plans to use federal funding available through the American Rescue Plan Act to set up the sites, pay for leases and cover other costs, Hammitt said. She added because the ordinance allowing the Safe Sleep sites to exist expires in May 2023, the agreements for service and funding are on 18month or two-year timeframes.

Contact city government watchdog Megan Banta at mbanta@registerguard.com.

Copyright © 2021 The Register-Guard 9/30/2021



Randy Groves