Street Runners or Drug runners, homeowners or homeless, dive bars or classy bars. The Whiteaker has it all.
By Colette Levesque
John Karroll has been living in the Whiteaker neighborhood for 20 plus years.
“There used to be a lot of drug use on the streets,” Karroll remembers, “maybe I am immune to seeing them now, but it used to be a lot worse.”
The Whiteaker, as cute as it seems from the passerby noticing adorable restaurants and up and coming breweries has not always been this way. A lot of residents of the area have worked hard to replace meth with community markets, needles with art walks, and aggression with a community Methadone clinic.
New to the neighborhood, bartender at the local pub – Tiny Tavern Amber Bingham, says, “Everyone has been really nice and friendly” but in the mean time feels that part of the drug problem, which is still prevalent in the Whiteaker, is invested and being encouraged by local rehabilitation centers.
“People come over to this park over here [known as sober park] and give out free clean needles and pick up dirty ones,” Bingham said, “that’s just saying its okay.”
Another resident of the Whiteaker neighborhood, Kevin Maclean who currently lives at the East Blair Housing Co-Op comments on the influence of drugs, “Things like the Buckley center, detox centers, halfway houses they all tend to get clumped in this neighborhood.”
Maclean speaks from experience. He has lived in the Whiteaker since 1983, “It all leads to a lot of crime, and also just a perception on some people’s part that it’s a dangerous neighborhood.”
But, Maclean also feels that things are changing and the neighborhood is still working to constantly improve, “They’re doing great things as far as low income people being able to be housed, “ he ways.
The park that Maclean and Bingham are referring to is called Scobert Park. For a long time JESCO Club inc., which is a local but private drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, has been giving out clean needles and picking up dirty ones to help fight against the AIDS epidemic.
The Whiteaker also has many other social service organizations for hard-drug abusers and a place for homeless to stay, the Eugene Mission. In addition there is Living solutions and the Willamette Family.
It should not be hard to infer that drug use and homelessness are not rare or unheard of in the Whiteaker neighborhood but it’s getting better.
A local tattoo artist at the Black Lotus feels the same way. “There are a bunch of weirdos but it’s colorful” Felix the Bat said but, “I think it’s just going to get better and better down here.”
Like any neighborhood there are pros and cons. In the early 1990’s in the Whiteaker “there was a Heroin Market right down the street, open 24/7, guys right out on the street” Maclean recalls, but now with all of the improvements Maclean says, “The Whiteaker is a great neighborhood to live in.”