A Shelter For Loitering Yonth

—Loitering teenager groups in downtown Eugene stirred the discussion of a better community

By Michelle Li

EUGENE, Ore. — In downtown Eugene,  large groups of teenagers loitering on the sidewalks near the bus station and the library could be intimidating, yet people said they were quite harmless. All they need was a place to go.

The favorite spot for the youth to hang out was the sidewalk in front of the Eugene Public Library, but not anymore. The sign “No Smoking. Walking Bicycles. Carry Skateboard” has been the outside the library since March 12th. Now the new rules have pushed all of the youth over to Lane Transit District (LTD) bus station.

For Tom Keating, who worked at Eugene Research Institute, the crowd did cause some inconvenience for him. “You have to wade through a crowd of people to get anywhere. It makes it really inconvenient,” Keating said.

Environment issues like littering and spitting were also concerned by small business in downtown. Guadalupe Melendrez, an employee at Burrito Boy for 6 years, said, “Some of them (the teenagers) come in and eat and they are okay. But some of them sit on tables and smoke and spit on the sidewalk.” Melendrez also mentioned that sometimes she would find urine and vomit in the morning at their front door. “Some people get intimidated especially when it’s hot and the kids have been drinking,” Melendrez added.

Rick Rhoades has been working as a security guard in Eugene Public Library since August 2009. He spent 90 percent of  the time at work enforcing the new rules that the library has implemented, asking people to get off from their bicycles and  skateboards. Rhoades said the big group of teenagers could be a problem because they were blocking the sidewalks, and that could deter some of the people to come down here. “You look down 10th and you can’t see anything but kids,” he said.

But people who walked or worked in the area reflected that these teenagers were just hanging around but do nothing harmful. Rhoades hopes that LTD will implement rules to keep the crowd from blocking the sideways. However, when asking about the opinion about these teens,  LTD security officers said they were not supposed to comment on this issue.

Groups of youth gathered at Eugene Station

Rhoades also suggested that the city council should create a community center for teens to go. “Some kids that look like they are troublemakers can be pretty decent,” he added, “if we gave them a place that was their own and they were in charge of the building it would give them a chance to show their responsibility.”

Keating agreed with Rhoades that the group did not mean any harm but it just “discourages people from coming downtown, especially older people.” When asking about the solution of creating a community place for teenagers to go, Keating showed his concern about how to balance the “undesirable elements.” He explained that even building up a nice and big public place for them, the problem will still be there. “They are kids and kids just want to hang out,” Keating added.

Eugene City Council proposed the Urban Renewal project last month to revitalize downtown area. One of the hotspots for redevelopment were the pit located on the corner of Charnelton Street and 10th Avenue. It could fulfill the need to create a community public place, which would serve as a center where people could gather. “With all the talk of doing something with that pit out there, I think it should be used for a community center” Rhoades said.

About michelleqianli

Michelle QianLi is currently studying MCDM at University of Washington. She is a native-born Chinese and came to U.S. in 2008.
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