People from in and around the community voice their opinions about the homeless and displaced in the neighborhood
By Graham Sprague
The Jefferson Westside Neighborhood in Eugene may not be as well known as some of the other neighborhoods, like University or Downtown, but it still faces many of the same problems. Taxes and students are usually the thing most residents talk about, but on this sunny Friday morning, they only had one thing in mind: homelessness.
Most of the Jefferson Westside area is residential, but its proximity to downtown Eugene, where most of the homeless congregate, leaves it open to homeless traffic. That, coupled with the relaxed security of parks and fields in the area, allows the homeless population to take shelter there without any backlash from the community.
It doesn’t take a resident of the neighborhood to notice their presence, either. Carol
Hildebrand, a volunteer and member at the First United Methodist Church, realizes that it is hard out there for people who don’t have a place to go. “We have a clean, warm, dry place for a person to rest and by and large people really appreciate the help,” she said. “The folks who live downtown, the folks who don’t have a permanent residence, we are happy to be of service but it also means there are sometimes people who have problems, people who need to be helped.” She also emphasized that while she doesn’t see the homeless as a negative thing, the Church gives packs of food to those in need, as well as access to water fountains, restrooms, and a phone.
Another non-resident who has noticed the problem is Reed Yates. An out-of-tower who was drinking coffee at Midtown Café on Willamette Street, Yates has realized that the homeless are no longer limited to old veterans and younger kids. “There is a larger age group now, newly economic disposed people have a lot of trouble finding a place to live,” he said. He has seen more families together on the streets, rather than the usual one or two people together.
The residents of the Jefferson Westside have also noticed this. Wairimu Lazeney has been a resident of the neighborhood for only two months now, but the neighborhood’s vicinity to areas that receive more street traffic has revealed how many of the homeless frequent the area. Living near the corner of 17th Avenue and Charnelton Street also means she is close to Charnel Mulligan Park, which is a regular hang out for the homeless. “The main thing I’ve noticed is bums,” she said.
While the homeless are not a plague on the residents of the Jefferson Westside Neighborhood, they have come to be perceived as a nuisance. And even though the people at First United don’t see them as a pest, others in the neighborhood certainly see them as undesirable. “If you go to the other side of 18th it’s more neighborhoody,” said Wairimu Lazeney. “This park brings a lot of unwanted company.”