Public drunkenness and other crimes downtown have risen 25 percent since 2008, according to the City of Eugene Crime Statistics. Mayor Kitty Piercy and the City Council need to take action in order to restore the neighborhood’s image and revitalize its economy.
Violent crime in the downtown area has alarmed some Eugene residents and stirred others into action. On August 25th, someone stabbed and killed 36-year-old homeless man James David Pelfrey at the Washington Jefferson Park. On September 6th, someone stabbed a 21-year-old in front of the city library. On October 3rd, someone set fire to 43-year-old homeless man James Lemmon on East Broadway Street. Lemmon told KVAL he thinks he was targeted because he was homeless.
Along with these violent crimes, loitering, disorderly contact, graffiti, drunkenness, and other criminal actions detract from the type of atmosphere citizens want from the heart of their city. While downtown safety has been an ongoing issue, questions on how to eliminate these dangers need to be answered.
One group, the Eugene Advocates for a Clean City, is calling for the city to take action against this illegal and unsavory activity.
Homelessness is not only unsavory, it’s expensive. The hidden financial cost of homelessness for taxpayers is astounding. One emergency room visit is $362, one night at the Lane County Jail is $359, and one night at the Johnson Unit Psychiatric Center is $859. According to the City of Eugene Low Income Housing and Homelessness fact sheet, 7,666 homeless individuals used social services from Lane County or were treated at Springfield’s Riverstone Clinic in 2006. This translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money gone to waste as these services lead to no lasting change.
But change can be accomplished. A better way to use taxpayer money is to re-channel these hidden costs into subsidized housing and creating shelters in the downtown area. The open, vacant buildings downtown are ideal locations for these shelters.
On November 19th, KVAL News is hosting the KVAL Downtown Solutions Forum to give people connected to Downtown Eugene a chance to ask questions of their leaders about how to make our city a better place. This is a move in the right direction as the situation becomes urgent.
While homelessness is not an inexpensive issue, immediate action needs to be taken.