Getting to the bottom of vagrancy in the Jefferson Westside Neighbors
by Kayne Carpenter
The Jefferson Westside Neighbors is home to some of Eugene’s friendliest faces and busiest shops. Sweet Life bakery, Eugene Jazzercise Center, and the New Frontier Market are all native Jefferson Westside businesses. But there are some who call the JWN home that business owners and residents are less than thrilled to call neighbors: the homeless.
The Jefferson Westside Neighbors has a vagrancy problem.
“We have a large problem with the homeless. They line up on the walkway or on the steps, we had to put an iron gate in to keep them out,” said Cindi Bletscher, administrator at the Eugene First Church of the Nazarene. “We don’t mind if they sleep but they use the property as a bathroom and also leave needles behind where children are present.”
The Jefferson Westside Neighbors is a place of few shortcomings. The streets are relatively clean and safe, shops of all kinds can be found in close proximity and the JWN features beautiful parks and recreational areas. But residents are aware and mostly unhappy with this neighborhood epidemic.
“Occasionally we’ll get homeless loitering either inside or outside of the shop but usually they’ll leave without any problems if we ask them to,” said Sweet Life manager Aaron Sullivan. However, not all of Sullivan’s memories of the homeless are so benign.
“There was this one time that a local vagrant man who people around here call Warlock went on a three-day rampage. He came in here a few times and was walking behind the counter getting himself samples of the food,” said Sullivan.
Despite the discontent of some, there are some special considerations made for the homeless in the JWN. Local NPO the Hosea Youth Services serves 8,000 meals and provides 1,500 nights of shelter care on average each year. Jefferson Westside’s churches also take the homeless into consideration.
“Occasionally there is a large homeless presence at Sunday service,” said Bletscher. “We bus people from the mission over so typically any homeless for service come from there. We also do a monthly service at the mission.”
Though many notice the unusually high number of homeless in the neighborhood, not all consider it to be such a bad thing.
“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 while locking her bike up. “They always keep to themselves in my experience.”
Vagrancy may be considered a small price to pay for the perks JWN residents enjoy every day. Or maybe it’s a tribute to the diversity and acceptance of the Jefferson Westside Neighbors that so many homeless find shelter here.
Either way, Jefferson Westside Neighbors isn’t such a bad place to call home. Whether you have a home or not.