Creating More Safe Places to Sleep
The Eugene City Council on Wednesday, April 28, approved an ordinance to create more safe and lawful places for people to sleep. The ordinance allows for the temporary establishment of “safe parking” and “safe tent” sites that could provide options for individuals to legally park their vehicles or sleep in tents. These sites will accommodate a larger number of vehicles or tents than previously allowed by code, up to 60 vehicles or up to 40 tents. The sites will be managed by social service providers who will be responsible for compliance with rules and community agreements, monitoring who is allowed to be on-site, coordinating ongoing site infrastructure needs, being accessible and responsive to neighbor concerns, and coordinating with the City and other partners.
The ordinance would remain in effect until May 1, 2023, unless extended.
** Updated 9/20/2021
Washington Jefferson Park
Tent site count is 230, each in a gridded 12-foot by 12-foot space, with 12 feet between each. This is 10 sites fewer than the limit of 240 set by the City earlier in 2021. Staff will use a map of the grid system to track which sites are occupied and closed, and the grid number system will be used to flag sites for needs or concerns.
After on-site staff noticed sanitation concerns in one of the park sections, logistics staff sourced more portable restrooms, two handwashing stations and a dumpster. The location will be challenging for service, but staff will work with the external providers for best access. Park Operations is upgrading park garbage cans to meet the new park standard; temporary cans have been installed as this process continues. Colder temperatures can bring on greater likelihood of warming fires, and staff are immediately reporting any evidence of illegal burning. In preparation for wet weather, Park Operations and site monitors are laying down landscape fabric and gravel to create safe, navigable paths through the grass areas of the park.
The tent count this week is steady at 68. Gravel paths will also be laid down at this location as wetter weather becomes the norm. There was a second altercation at the start of the week that required law enforcement intervention: a woman attempted to enter a tent uninvited and when she was denied, threw rocks through the tent at the occupant. The woman then struck a bystander who tried to intervene. The woman was arrested by Eugene Police, lodged at Lane County Jail and trespassed from the location. Site personnel and police continue to be vigilant about any reports of criminal activity or inappropriate behavior near the site.
By creating the additional sites, those individuals currently camping in Washington Jefferson Park, 13th and Chambers, and in vehicles in West Eugene, will be prioritized to occupy legal spaces to sleep that are managed and have services to ensure health and safety.
The original plan to establish 200 “safe parking” and 300 “safe tent” sites was shared during an April 12 City Council Work Session. In establishing the safe sites collaboration is key. A critical partner in providing safe places for the unhoused is the local service provider network. City staff have been meeting with social service providers to understand provider capacity to support new sanctioned sites. With any large-scale problem, collaboration and coordination across the community will be critical. City staff have been working with Lane County, private property owners and the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce to identify locations to establish the new temporary safe sites.
The ordinance is part of an overarching strategy to address the impacts of unsheltered homelessness. There will be a public hearing on code amendments for on street parking regulations on June 14.
The City continues to work with Lane County and partners in the community to find safe places for unhoused community members, including the newly established microsites, additional Rest Stops, overnight car camping sites and in existing shelters. However, it is still the case that many people experiencing homelessness are residing in Eugene’s parks, natural areas, and right of way areas for the time being.