Eugene, Ore. -- (Register Guard) Eugene police closed down the Whoville homeless camp Friday morning.
Approximately 50 people lived at Whoville, which is on a city-owned vacant lot. The camp began early last fall.
Before its break, the Eugene City Council voted that the city could begin closing the camp on April 1 and must complete closure by April 15.
Whoville residents and homeless advocates made a public plea earlier this week for the city to delay closing the site.
Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz issued a statement shortly after 9 a.m. Friday saying the city had re-posted notices last week that the property is not open for public use of any kind and that clearing and clean-up of the area would begin after April 1. The City Council had directed the site be closed no later than April 15, he said.
“Today, we are clearing that site,” Ruiz said in the written statemnent. “This has been a long and ongoing process that began last September when the site was first occupied illegally. Since that time, multiple notices and warnings have been given to campers. The city’s goal all along has been and still is for people to leave the site voluntarily and to get connected with the services they need to find safe and legal shelter.”
Ruiz said a number of services have been provided during this process, including a police liaison who has met with camp representatives on a regular basis, and representatives of CAHOOTS and other social service agencies who have frequently visited the site.
“We have encouraged campers there to utilize other options available to them such as the Eugene Mission and have actively worked to connect them to services.” Ruiz’s statement said.
He said that the Eugene Mission and the car camping program managed by St. Vincent de Paul are available to campers in addition to other social service venues on a case-by-case basis.
“The Eugene Mission currently has a number of spaces open for men and for women,” he said.
Ruiz said the city “has tried to compassionately consider the needs of vulnerable community members while also balancing the health and safety needs of the entire community.”
“Even as we close this illegal camp, we will continue to be as compassionate and helpful as possible,” Ruiz’ statement said, “including transporting and providing temporary secure storage for property and continuing to help people find services.”
(Photo courtesy of Register Guard)