The neighborhood of Churchill is divided. From countless scenic parks, to boarded homes and abandoned buildings. From the upper middle class living on the hill, to transients living behind the Wal-Mart.
It’s considered by most to be a pleasant and peaceful place to live, yet there are still a number of issues residents feel the neighborhood faces. Two of the biggest problems currently plaguing the Churchill area include, crime and the overpopulation of transients.
Angela Chan, owner of Koho Bistro, has seen a fair share of crimes committed against her neighborhood establishment. “We’ve been here for six months and our restaurant has been broken into four times,” she said.
Chan says the burglaries appear to be kids trying to steal alcohol from their full bar, and says they’ve since taken necessary security measures to protect the restaurant. “We hope the alarms are loud enough for the firefighters across the street to hear or scare off intruders,” she said.
Chan’s restaurant is located within a strip mall on Bailey Hill Rd., amongst a number of other deserted stores and businesses. Fire Captain David McNeil, of the Churchill Fire Department, believes the poor economy is the main reason for so many empty stores in the area. “I haven’t seen a lot of growth in this part of town,” he said. Being the only restaurant in the neighborhood, Chan hopes her more modern, updated Koho Bistro will “help bring more life around here,” she said.
Unlike restaurants, Churchill is filled with multiple parks. Acorn Park is one of the most popular in the neighborhood, yet McNeil warns the bike paths around the park are inhabited by many transients and are not always safe. “I wouldn’t walk there if I were a single female, alone at anytime of the day,” he said.
The many transients of the Churchill neighborhood not only occupy parts of Acorn Park, but in the summer, a vacant grassland behind the Wal-Mart on W. 11th becomes a popular destination spot for them, and a hassle for firefighters. “Every year the vacant field behind Wal-Mart catches fire,” Firefighter Derek Thorstenson said. “The biggest issue is making sure the fires don’t spread.”
The growing transient population in the Churchill neighborhood is believed to be a result of the extremely high number of services and resources the city of Eugene provides the homeless. “Transients come from all over the West Coast to Eugene,” Thorstenson said. “There’s nowhere else in the country like it. Very generous here.”