The Jefferson Westside Neighborhood deals with homeless problem with limited resources.
By Katherine Du Pont
Homelessness in the Jefferson Westside Neighborhood is at a high. Vagrancy around businesses, churches and area parks may not have been a direct threat to the institutions, but the growing homeless population is bringing some concern for the safety of the neighborhood.
Currently, the neighborhood has very limited resources for the homeless population. Out of the major outlets for the homeless, The Eugene Mission, St. Vincent de Paul’s Egan Warming Center and Eugene Service Station, the only one offered in the Jefferson Westside is the Egan Warming Center. Although the other centers are located around the greater Eugene area, establishments in the neighborhood are picking up the slack.
“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,” Aaron Sullivan said. Sullivan is the manager of Sweet Life Patisserie and has had numerous interactions with the homeless that come around his shop.
“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. That was a little weird,” Sullivan said.
“This town has a lot of transients in general,” Julia Holtzman said. Holtzman, a five-year employee at Sweet Life has had very few problems with the homeless. Holtzman said, “They’ll come in, ask for coffee. Sometimes they have money, sometimes they don’t.”
Like Holtzman, Ingrid G. only notices the problem when she rides through certain areas. “I don’t live in the neighborhood, but I ride my bike through it all the time and I haven’t had any problems. I haven’t had any problems with the homeless,” Ingrid G. said.
Churches have had mixed reactions to the growing homeless inhabitants. “Occasionally there is a large homeless presence at Sunday service. We bus people from the Mission over, so typically any homeless present for service come from there. We also do a monthly service at the Mission,” Cindi Bletscher said.
As Eugene First Church of the Nazarene administrator, Bletscher acknowledged the lack of programs the church offers towards the homeless population, but sees more problems with them around the church’s buildings. “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,” Bletscher said.
Bletscher mentioned other institutions in not only the Jefferson Westside Neighborhood but in the greater Eugene that currently cater to the needs of the homeless. One block west of the First Church of the Nazarene, the Eugene Evangelical Church houses a program called the Hosea Youth Services.
The non-profit works to provide meals and shelter to the homeless, as well as to provide those same services to kids living on the streets. The ministry teams up with the Egan Warming Center and Food for Lane County to better support the growing needs of the homeless. On average, they serve 8,000 meals and 1,500 nights of shelter care each year.
For now, the Jefferson Westside Neighborhood center like the Hosea Youth Services is making strides in aiding the homeless.