Activist coalition springs into action to halt sweep, but city continues to put pressure on camps
On Feb. 17, unhoused residents camping at Westmoreland Park faced another threat of eviction—in violation of CDC guidelines and the City of Eugene’s “Covid-19 Permitted Camp Criteria”— following the first on Feb. 5, which was postponed.
The initial Feb. 5 “Westmoreland Camp Cleanup Warning” cites that the camp was in violation because it was within 300 ft. of a City Rest Stop. Notably, most of the residents who were given the eviction notice were outside of the 300 ft. exclusion zone.
The Eugene Rest Stop Pilot Program offers, according to the flyer, “a designated area within city limits where up to 20 people are allowed to sleep in tents or Conestoga Huts.”
One is being set-up at the end of the park near 18th Ave.
Two weeks later, on Feb. 16, the City of Eugene issued a second eviction order. Instead of citing the temporary camping rules allowed due to the pandemic as they had prior, the city decided to enforce Park Rules — which prohibit camping in city parks — despite previously announcing that they wouldn’t do so.
The next morning, the city began the sweep. That’s when Tim Ream, “a random citizen” as he called himself, stepped-in to help facilitate an agreement between a representative of the Parks and Recreation and the unhoused as Eugene police officers observed from a distance.
Local activists with Decriminalize Homelessness and Stop Death On The Streets, among others, then helped to move tents and belongings out of the exclusion zone while a work crew from the city cleaned up everything left behind.
Currently, over 40 activist groups, businesses, and faith centers have formed a coalition in demanding that the “City of Eugene decriminalize homelessness and stop the sweeps.”
The coalition is currently calling for the City of Eugene to decriminalize homelessness, and:
- “Stop the sweeps and follow CDC, OHA, and Lane County Public Health guidelines.
- Immediately identify and establish emergency locations where unhoused residents can safely and legally shelter in place in their vehicles and tents.
- Provide basic sanitation services to camps.
- Immediately cease tissue parking/vehicle citations, notices for vehicle impoundment, and other citations for violations of ‘quality of life’ laws that directly target and discriminate against unhouse people and people of color, including prohibited camping, open container, violation of park rules, and criminal trespass.
- Increase transparency in identifying resources to address the housing crisis by publicly releasing the City’s entire line-item budget for the past five years. The public has a right to know how public money is being spent.
- Leverage all available resources to help create long-term access to stable and affordable housing for all.”
While the residents at Westmoreland were able to stay another day, it is likely—based on the back-and-forth decisions this community has witnessed during this pandemic—that the city will continue to sweep camps despite health guidelines.