Friday, June 15, 2012

Homeless advocates plead for a legal camp

"Homeless advocates on Monday evening urged the Eugene City Council to help them establish a homeless camp.
Several speakers, some of them belonging to or supportive of the Occupy Eugene protest group, asked the council to provide land so they can establish a place for homeless people to legally camp.
“We don’t want any money,” said Andy Heben, a southeast Eugene resident. “All we are asking for is a piece of land.”
The request to the council for a homeless camp came three months after a mayor-appointed committee recommended the city allow the creation of a homeless camp by Oct. 1. However, the committee did not reach consensus on where the camp would be located and how it would be operated.
Impatient with the lack of progress on the matter, speakers asked the council to get involved.
The camp would be a self-sufficient, environmentally friendly place that would be a “pride” for any neighborhood, said Jean Stacey, an Occupy Eugene member.
“It will not be a depressing blemish or reliant on taxpayer dollars,” she said.
Occupy Eugene operated a camp that was open to the homeless in Washington-Jefferson Park for several weeks that was disbanded by authorities last December after a man who had been beaten in the camp died from his injuries a few days later.
Speaking to the council, Patrice Dotson, wearing a white robe and a halo on top of her head, called herself the angel of shelter.
“I’m an angel without wings,” she said. “I’m working hard to earn my wings by working to create a homeless shelter.”
At a council work session earlier, Councilor George Brown said some people think the former U.S. Naval Reserve site on West 13th Avenue and Chambers Street, which is owned by the city, would be a good homeless camp.
The council will go on a six-week break starting July 26, so activists are eager to have the council take up the matter as soon as possible in order to have the camp established by Oct. 1.
Councilors did not respond to what the speakers said, although Mayor Kitty Piercy thanked them for their comments.
Other speakers asked the council to place a ballot measure before voters urging Congress to approve a constitutional amendment limiting corporate campaign contributions and declaring that corporations don’t have the same rights as citizens.
Eugene resident Charlie Swanson thanked the council for its approval in February of a resolution calling for the same thing, but said a vote of the city’s residents would carry more weight with Congress.
“It would be a small step to get more civil political campaigns,” he said.
The council resolution was an attempt to reverse the effects of a controversial campaign finance ruling made two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the 5-4 ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the court removed restrictions on campaign spending for corporations, labor unions and other interest groups.
The local resolution came at the urging of We the People-Eugene, a local affiliate of a national group, Move to Amend.
In another matter, the council voted 6-2 to keep the city’s rental housing code for another four years, until Sept. 30, 2016.
The code, which is considered unnecessary by many landlords, sets rental housing standards and allows the city to inspect rentals and order fines if landlords don’t respond to tenants’ written complaints.
The landlords were upset last month when the council considered making the code permanent by removing the sunset date."
- Edward Russo, Register-Guard