The Not So Brightside of the Westside

Home Sweet Home might not be Sweet for Some Locals

Eugene, OR- Sammy Brenner- Jefferson Westside is a small district located in central Eugene. It has quaint restaurants, old-fashioned houses and several parks. While it has redeeming qualities there are numerous factors that make the districts residents a little uneasy.

Getting down to the facts, how do the residents feel about their neighborhood?

Kyle Ryan has been working at Laughing Planet for around a year and says he truly enjoys his job. He described the customers as friendly and he gets along well with his co-workers. The atmosphere in the café seems light and carefree as people sip and chat over a cup of coffee. After being asked what bothered him about the neighborhood he worked in Ryan said, “They [homeless people] come in a lot.” Laughing Planet is located next to an alleyway that the homeless community in Jefferson Westside frequents on a daily basis; he even referred to the alley as “their highway.” Ryan often feels uncomfortable because many of them come into the restaurant begging for food. “If it was a moral thing I’d just give them food but it’s my job and my responsibility is to make sure homeless people are not harassing customers” said Ryan.

Another Jefferson Westside local restaurant worker Edith Rivera shared similar feelings about the homeless population that frequents the area but takes a different approach. Edith gives food to the people who come in El Jarro Azul a small Mexican restaurant just a few down from Laughing Planet. “There is sometimes a screaming lady who looks like she is on medicine or maybe drugs. She looks like she needs to be somewhere else” Rivera said as she describes a woman who frequents the area. It’s evident that Rivera has a soft spot in her heart for those in need and is willing to give them anything she has to offer.

Sweet Life is always full of neighborhood locals and is a hotspot within the district. Lots of the seating inside the bakery looks out onto the transient streets of the Westside, never a shortage of things to watch from the black bar stools. Brooke Borcherding has been working at Sweet Life for a couple of weeks now. Borcherding likes working there but is fully aware that the surrounding area has problems she said “I see a lot of people in the park, I assume they are doing drugs…so I choose not to walk over there.” Sweet Life is located just a couple blocks up the street from Monroe Park, a small neighborhood recreational area that’s seen a lot of the homeless population along with drug abuse. Borcherding said “When I take out the trash in the bathroom I was trained never to squeeze the bag because there are dirty needles in there sometimes.” This goes to show that when you work in neighborhoods with these kinds of issues it’s crucial to take every precaution possible to ensure your own personal safety.

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