Are the Homeless People the Problem?
Downtown Eugene is trying to change the way its viewed
By Spencer Schloss
On a brisk Halloween afternoon the streets of downtown Eugene are quiet and calm as local businesses and restaurants patiently wait for customers to come in and improve business.
However, masses of homeless people stroll the downtown Eugene streets looking for food and money from people. The homeless community is the biggest problem facing the downtown Eugene association as it tries to restore the feeling of a downtown area. The downtown Eugene association features many restaurants, bars, and retail stores. A well-known local eatery Voodoo Doughnut is right in the heart of downtown and sees a great deal of homeless people everyday. “The homeless people think that they can come in and get free donuts just because they are homeless. They come in and bug customers and employees for money and anything they can get,” said Kendra Breed. Breed, a 26-year-old Voodoo Doughnut employee, explained that the homeless people have always tried to get free food especially since the restaurant is open 24 hours and seven days a week.
City of Eugene Housing & Homelessness showed that the number of homeless people who lived on the streets or in temporary shelters in Lane County was 3,971 on the research result on January 27, 2010. About 64% of them were unsheltered, 30% of them were chronically homeless individuals, 17% of them were families and 8% of them were homeless Veterans.
Local businesses aren’t the only people affected by homeless people in the downtown area though. Local customer and University of Oregon senior Rainey Desiervo said that homeless people scare and deter people away from downtown Eugene. “Downtown Eugene used to be a cool place to be and hang out with friends, but now the surplus of homeless people takes away from the experience from going downtown,” said Desiervo. Though most people in downtown see homeless people as a bad thing not all local residents of downtown Eugene see homeless people as the main problem for downtown’s recent failures.
“Homeless people aren’t the reason why people come to downtown. People don’t come to downtown because of the perception that it is an empty community with homeless people and closed down retail stores,” said Gerry Gaydos.
Gaydos, a 64-year-old man, shared a different opinion than the other two. Gaydos also said that homeless people don’t always keep the downtown area clean as he pointed out the window of Oveissi, which had strawberry jelly smeared all over it after a homeless person threw it at the window. “We can fix this perception by adding more restaurants and shops. For instance, did you know that the Hilton hotel doesn’t lead customers to the downtown area because of its downfall to be a hip place to be,” said Gaydos.
The amount of empty buildings and stores is something that catches the eye instantly. “All we need to do is find a way to fix this problem and then maybe one day people will get to experience the way downtown should be,” said Gaydos. As fall comes to an end and the cold winter weather quickly approaches the downtown area sees a glimmer of hope in restoring downtown to be fun and exciting place again and as Gaydos put it, “I’m believing in downtown”.