Vagrancy and homelessness plague the streets of Eugene, causing problems for business owners and organizations in the Jefferson Westside Neighbors area.
In 2006, 1,600 homeless people needed emergency shelter or housing assistance in Lane County, according to Eugeneweekly.com. Today, residents and workers of the JWN are still concerned about the abundance of vagrants roaming the neighborhood’s streets.
Cindi Bletscher, administrator at Eugene First Church of the Nazarene, said that her church doesn’t currently have a program in place to service the homeless, but that they do outreach at the Eugene Mission once a month. Even though the Church of the
Nazarene doesn’t run any specific program, its experience with the transients of Eugene has not been in short supply, but it has not been a positive one.
“We have a large problem with the homeless,” Bletscher said. “They line up on the
walkway or on the steps, and we had to put an iron gate in to keep them out.”
The walkway at the church provides shelter of which many vagrants take
“We don’t mind if they sleep,” Bletscher said, “but they use the property as a
bathroom and also leave needles behind where children are present.”
Bletscher expresses her concern over
the danger that the homeless and their actions present for the youth of the church.
The homeless need not go too far to find help on this street, however. The First Eugene Evangelical Church down the street does have a homeless program in place for those under the age of 18 called the Hosea Youth Services. This program includes resources such as food, clothing, and shelter for kids on the street. They also team up with St. Vincent de Paul’s Egan Warming Center to help serve the homeless and give them somewhere warm to stay during the winter.
The Hosea Youth Services serves 8,000 meals and provides 1,500 nights of shelter a year, along with giving kids a place to shower, do laundry, and safely rest.
Despite positive outlets for the homeless, some business owners have had similar problems as the Church of Nazarene with the loitering of vagrants around their shop.
Aaron Sullivan, manager at Sweet Life Patisserie, said that loitering has been an issue at times, but “usually they’ll leave without any problems if we ask them to.”
However, they have had more serious issues with certain homeless people.
“There was this one time a local vagrant man, who people around here call Warlock, went on a three-day rampage,” Sullivan said. “He came in here a few times and was walking behind the counter getting himself samples of the food. That was a little weird.”
Overall, the situation at Sweet Life is not as severe as other places.
“We’re in a pretty good location here,” Sullivan said. “To be honest, we don’t have that many problems relatively.”
Julia Holtzman, who has worked with Sullivan at Sweet Life for five years now, agrees that the problem around the shop isn’t so bad.
“I don’t really think of them as a problem, so much as where are they going to go?” Holtzman said.
The Sweet Life work crew is used to the homeless coming in to the shop.
“They’ll come in and ask for coffee,” Holtzman said. “Sometimes they have money, sometimes they don’t.”
Some in JWN haven’t had any issues at all with the local vagrants.
“I don’t live in the neighborhood but I ride my bike through it all the time and I haven’t had any problems with the homeless,” said Ingrid G, a local Eugene resident. “I don’t think they’re a very large presence in the neighborhood overall, but a lot of them hang out in the parks. They always keep to themselves in my experience though.”