Creating More Safe Places to Sleep
The Eugene City Council on Wednesday, April 28, approved an ordinance to create more safe and lawful places for people to sleep. The ordinance allows for the temporary establishment of “safe parking” and “safe tent” sites that could provide options for individuals to legally park their vehicles or sleep in tents. These sites will accommodate a larger number of vehicles or tents than previously allowed by code, up to 60 vehicles or up to 40 tents. The sites will be managed by social service providers who will be responsible for compliance with rules and community agreements, monitoring who is allowed to be on-site, coordinating ongoing site infrastructure needs, being accessible and responsive to neighbor concerns, and coordinating with the City and other partners.
The ordinance would remain in effect until May 1, 2023, unless extended.
** Updated 9/14/2021
Washington Jefferson Park
The most recent tent count is 234, down nine from last week. Gridding of the park between 5th and 6th avenues, 6th and 7th avenues, and from the railroad tracks to 5th Avenue has been completed. Gridding creates 12’x12’ spaces with 12’ between each. This allows for COVID-safe spacing, easier clean-ups, helps better track the number of campers present, facilitates emergency access, and keeps campsites at equitable sizes.
Park staff have received largely positive feedback from campers about the gridding and the stabilization and separation of space that it creates. Parks and Open Space staff, as well as the crews with Public Works Engineering and Parks Planning who carried out the gridding, have gone to great lengths to help campers with mobility issues or other special considerations to relocate their campsites to the new gridded areas. Five-day per week trash removal continues to allow site monitors to focus on camper relations and managing abandoned property. Eugene Police assistance with enforcing park restrictions helped the gridding and cleanup operations go more smoothly.
The tent count this week is 68; no change. Site Monitors report the site has been stable, with many campers seeking alternative housing such as Community Supported Shelters Conestoga huts or shelter placements. Site Monitors started working weekends, allowing for increased interaction with campers and leading to decreased debris on Mondays. Also, EPD credits focused overnight patrols with reduced incidents. Police did make an arrest for disorderly conduct and criminal trespass from an incident at the site on Friday. Such incidents are not typical.
By creating the additional sites, those individuals currently camping in Washington Jefferson Park, 13th and Chambers, and in vehicles in West Eugene, will be prioritized to occupy legal spaces to sleep that are managed and have services to ensure health and safety.
The original plan to establish 200 “safe parking” and 300 “safe tent” sites was shared during an April 12 City Council Work Session. In establishing the safe sites collaboration is key. A critical partner in providing safe places for the unhoused is the local service provider network. City staff have been meeting with social service providers to understand provider capacity to support new sanctioned sites. With any large-scale problem, collaboration and coordination across the community will be critical. City staff have been working with Lane County, private property owners and the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce to identify locations to establish the new temporary safe sites.
The ordinance is part of an overarching strategy to address the impacts of unsheltered homelessness. There will be a public hearing on code amendments for on street parking regulations on June 14.
The City continues to work with Lane County and partners in the community to find safe places for unhoused community members, including the newly established microsites, additional Rest Stops, overnight car camping sites and in existing shelters. However, it is still the case that many people experiencing homelessness are residing in Eugene’s parks, natural areas, and right of way areas for the time being.