By Virginia Rice
Eugene, Ore.-The problem of homeless people seeking refuge in Eugene is far from solved and local business owners in the Trainsong neighborhood feel that the city is far from the right solution.
The Trainsong neighborhood is the most affected by the ever increasing problem of homeless people and drug users in Eugene. The city has an ever increasing population of homeless people because the city does a decent job at providing several options and programs like FOOD for Lane County. People from around the country come here because of that appeal and the weather is never too cold or too hot to die from, unlike places like Chicago where one can freeze to death in the winter. Aaron Speck, owner of the Oklahoma Smokehouse BBQ located on Highway 99, says it’s because the rest of the city doesn’t want to deal with the issues. “Everyone hates west Eugene because of its reputation. Other communities don’t want to deal with homeless so they encourage the homeless to move to Trainsong.”
Trainsong has a history of crime and drug traffic. Teri Volker, the general manager for A+ Express Towing, says “I don’t have issues walking to my car at night but I would never live here. Today they had to cut a hole in our back fence so an ambulance could get through to a person. I will be paying for a new fence.” The consensus among those working in Trainsong is that the homeless people aren’t the problem, but rather the constant infiltration of drugs and alcohol. “My business is struggling because there is such little foot traffic on Highway 99. I have had stuff stolen and so have other businesses around here,” said Speck. The Oklahoma Smokehouse BBQ is located right near a tent city where drugs and crimes are the everyday normal. Beverly Firneisz, who manages Bird Tracs Embroidery LLC, loves the neighborhood despite problems. “For business it is great. People can easily find us on Highway 99. I live in the Bethel neighborhood and love the area,” said Firneisz. She admits that the building has had several theft problems before, so bad that the owner put a fence up with barbed wire.
A neighborhood is a place where people find home, establish their families, and prosper together in community. Aaron Speck believes that “a neighborhood is where there should be a strong sense of community, comfort, and safety. The Trainsong neighborhood is certainly not safe.” Trainsong is a small community built on lower income housing that may be feeding this problem. Without the ability to establish roots in a place there is the ability for negative influences like drugs and violence to break in and prosper. “To turn around the Trainsong neighborhood would take a major upheaval that I don’t think is possible. The more we care for people, the more people who want to be cared for show up,” said Speck. “It’s a double edged sword,” said Volker. “With the tent city behind our business it keeps out others who may be responsible for theft but we still have the issue of homeless people,”
The city has yet to come to a solution for the problem. The more aid is available, the more people from the rest of the country migrate here to seek a better home. However, from the traditionally viewpoint of a home it is a wonder how Trainsong can even be considered that when its past and present fight all potential for a bright future. “It needs to be cleaned up and the cycle needs to end,” said Firneisz. Perhaps the solution is to stop providing aid and start providing change. Like the old saying goes: give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and eats for a lifetime. To the business owners in Trainsong, it is time for the rest of the neighborhood to learn how to swim.
Link to recent crimes throughout Trainsong and Eugene: http://www.crimereports.com/map?search=trainsong%2C+eugene%2C+oregon