It was a quiet week for council which doesn’t meet on the first week of the month. My mayoral commitments took me to a few noteworthy and promising meetings.
On Tuesday, I attended the morning session of a two-day workshop about “Operation Welcome Home.” This is a technical assistance program granted to 10 counties by the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department (OHCS) to improve our capacity to house homeless veterans. The city of Eugene is a partner with Lane County in the successful application to receive this support.
The morning featured case studies of a few cities who have successfully met their targets to end veteran homelessness, including New Orleans and Rockford, IL. Ending homelessness does not mean that no veterans fall into homelessness; it means that they are able to quickly access services including emergency, transitional or permanent housing. Communities choose to focus on housing veterans first, as we have in Lane County with Operation 365, because veterans benefit from VA services, which makes it easier and faster to get them housed. The lessons learned and trust built in a community by successfully housing veterans positions counties for succeeding in the next step, housing chronically homeless adults who are not veterans. Rockford, Illinois met its goal to house veterans in four years; followed by success with chronically homeless adults in another three. This complements works that is already underway in Eugene and Lane County and affirms the strategic recommendations presented in the TAC Shelter Feasibility and Homelessness report.
Two days later, I chaired the Metropolitan Policy Committee (MPC) meeting. MPC is a multi-jurisdictional committee that recommends and oversees the expenditure of state and federal funds to support transportation projects. Leadership rotates between Eugene, Springfield and Lane County. The meeting opened with public testimony about Irene Ferguson, a long-time activist on street safety who was killed last month as she was walking at night on Hunsaker Road. The MPC meeting closed with a promising report about our Safe Routes to School programs through which Eugene and Springfield and all three school districts, supported by state funds, encourage youth and families to walk and bike; invest in bike and pedestrian safety improvements; and host biannual “walk to school” days. In October, 47 schools engaged over 15,000 school kids in walking or biking to school – a legacy of which Irene Ferguson would be proud.
In between these reports, Lane Transit District reported on “Transit Tomorrow,” a comprehensive system analysis to determine how the District can develop the best bus service for Eugene and Springfield. They are assessing how to balance the need to increase ridership versus increase areas with bus service; increase service and retain or improve affordability. Would you rather walk a shorter distance to the stop for more frequent service, or accept as a community more distant stops but expanded service throughout the metropolitan area? Your input is needed: the online survey is available at LTD.org/Transit-Tomorrow.