The Human Rights Commission received an update from City Council liaison Randy Groves at its regular monthly meeting March 16. Councilor Groves was introduced by HRC Chair Amanda McCluskey.
Amanda McCluskey: So if we could Councilor Groves, if you want to give us your update.
Councilor Randy Groves: Thank you chair, yes. As I mentioned, we’re on break right now, but one of the things that’s really heating up is the homeless situation. The camp that’s established off of 13th, between 13th and 14th. Obviously if you’ve been by there, you understand that the population has grown exponentially. And it’s starting to have some pushback from some of the neighbors that are being impacted. Even the principal of Cesar Chavez has written Council about it, with needles in the playground, and just there’s been fights, there’s fires at night, which, there’s no fire open flame in Eugene, and just trying to figure out how we manage this.
What we really need is some larger designated spaces that we can have sanitation, water, connect with services, garbage collection. And that just isn’t happening right now. The problem has exploded in West Eugene as well. There’s actually been a couple of businesses that have already left the area and there’s more that are planning on it.
And I’ve heard some people say, “They’re businesses, it’s not like they’re neighborhoods.” But we need the businesses to bring in the revenue to run our city. We can’t run it on just good intentions alone. And so the goal is trying to find how do we balance competing needs and do it in a humane way.
And that’s one of the things we’re working with, especially when you recognize that up to 178 new faces are here each month that weren’t here before. We are really struggling to, to try to catch up and then keep up with the demand. That’s something to keep an eye on.
We’re all trying to act responsibly and figure out how we can adjust this and balance competing needs. Some of the neighbors what they’re expressing and experiences they’re having that are fairly aggressive and threatening. They’re scared and, we need to protect all of our people in town and try to separate the behavior problems from the condition of homelessness and that’s somewhat difficult to do, but we’re trying to figure out how to navigate that. So that’s probably our biggest issue going on right now.
Yeah, it’s the frustrating part for me is there’s just no easy answers. It’s a big multifaceted thing. And as fast as we try to, for example, my first night on council, I had nothing to do with it other than to be able to vote in support of it, but we had a unanimous vote to approve three low-income housing projects that was going, that’s going to over the next two to three years, produce 195 low income units, not just affordable, low income, which is the first step out of homelessness.
And 45 of those are going to be supportive housing. And I was feeling really good about that until I started doing the numbers and realized, wow, that covers about five weeks worth of growth in our homeless population. And so it’s w when you start doing the math, that’s when it starts really feeling overwhelming to me, it’s just, I don’t know how we catch up and we need, we desperately need state and federal help.
You look at the state of Oregon and the places people for the most part end up, not in every case, but it’s Portland, Salem, and Eugene, and it just isn’t realistic to expect a medium- to- small size city like Eugene to be able to afford all this. So we’re struggling with it and please know that we’re trying, but the reality is when you’re trying to balance competing interests, not everybody’s going to end up happy. And so we’re just trying to do our best.