Whiteaker Embraces the Good and the Bad

Homelessness is a leading problem in the Whiteaker neighborhood but friends and residents say it’s not just the neighborhood’s problem but rather the entire city.

By: Michaela Gilmer

EUGENE, Ore.– Homelessness may appear as a problem to some throughout the streets of Whiteaker area, but friends and residents of the neighborhood say it does not reflect the neighborhood as a whole. The impact of homelessness in the area has little impact on Whiteaker’s residents.

Resident of the neighborhood for nine years, Sherri Brown thinks the neighborhood is great regardless of its perception as ‘Eugene’s ghetto.’ “I don’t really sees it [as the ghetto]. It’s mostly the homeless people who hang out in the park right down the street.” Brown said. Scobert Park is just two blocks down the street from Brown’s house. “It gets really gets over run in the summer. People are there getting drunk. One day someone crossed out the ‘c’ and the ‘t’ and called it ‘Sober Park’ as a joke,” Brown laughed.

“There are homelessness problems in a lot of places; the west coast, there are problems everywhere,” Whiteaker resident James Larkins shared. Larkins, who recently moved to the neighborhood from Humboldt, Calif. works at Red Barn Natural Grocery, one of the oldest natural food stores in the Eugene area.

“Generally this neighborhood is a good couple streets. Everyone is friendly here,” Larkins said.

Robin and Randy Brewer live in Springfield and have been visiting the Whiteaker neighborhood for over 26 years. The couple doesn’t see the problem of homelessness specifically in Whiteaker but rather the city as a whole. “It’s a matter of perspective,” Robin said. “We see homeless people everywhere, even in our neighborhood that is a middle class community.”

At a recent community council meeting, Whiteaker residents and officials voted to allow people to park their cars and camp as long as it was not a disturbance to the neighborhood. “Maybe why there are more homeless people that hang out here is [Whiteaker] because the people in Whiteaker are accepting,” Robin continued,” Robin said.

As the Eugene grows, neighborhoods such as the Whiteaker are seeing increases in business development and people moving to the area. “More people have come here because more people are moving to Eugene. More students, families of students come to visit and need something to do,” Robin said.

Although these changes have the ability to be benefits to the neighborhood, it allows the authentic neighborhood to become a possible victim of gentrification.

The neighborhood as a whole is more divided than it used to be. “The property value is going up here so it brings more people into the neighborhood. In East Whiteaker, there are more renters and in West Whiteaker, there are more home owners so people invest a little more in their property,” Brown said.

“We have seen such growth,” the Brewer’s said. “Tiny Tavern was the only spot down here and then Sam Bonds was the first place that got this area going,” Randy shared.

Regardless of possible problems of homelessness and development in the Whiteaker neighborhood, those who live and love the area will continue to remain humble by supporting the community as it grows and changes. “My favorite part of this neighborhood is Sam Bonds, the breweries,” Robin laughed. “The artistic community, it’s just a magical place”.

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About Michaela Gilmer

I am a full-time student majoring in Journalism at the University of Oregon. I am passionate about working in either sports or music. For my entire life, I have wanted to develop my career around helping others and I plan on doing just that through reporting journalism. I believe journalism is a literary art form, but is also rooted in social action because journalists create ideas and stories that generate numerous responses and actions. For example, if I write a story about a low-budget high school where men’s basketball could no longer be offered, anyone who reads my story could take action on the issue I presented. Individuals may contact the school board and demand a meeting about the budget and the severity of cutting men’s basketball. I want to cover this aspect of journalism because I want to expose these issues in order to lead to action in changing them. I want to work in sports because there are many complexities with both amateur and professional sports. I want to write about ethics and politics within sports, specifically baseball, basketball and football. There needs to more research about NBA/NFL/MLB fines and how these fines are not the answer to fixing problems. Ultimately, my goal is to write and work for ESPN the Magazine. I am seeking work and internship opportunities in writing, reporting, branding, digital media, marketing, business journalism and event planning/organizing.
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