Petition to the City Council to Modify the Camping Ban
We, the undersigned are here to petition the City Councilors to modify the camping ban. Winter is coming and for the unsheltered it is a particularly difficult season that brings colds, flu, pneumonia, and exposure to the elements that can lead to frostbite and sometimes even amputations of toes and fingers. Amputations in turn lead to loss of balance and difficulty surviving on the streets.
We urge the city councilors to hold a work session in the next week or two. Fall is already here and winter is rapidly approaching. Since last year, the city and county have made some progress in housing veterans under the HUD voucher system. The city has also provided land for a transitional microhousing village and for two rest stops, with a possible addition of a third this December. However these three city-approved provide additional housing for approximately 60 individuals (75 with the possible addition of the 3rd rest stop).
Meanwhile, the Mission is full to capacity and does not accept individuals with addiction issues or those dependent on someone of the opposite sex for care. Car camping under St. Vinnie’s for the most part occurs on church or other private land and is limited to one to six individuals per site. Of the 3,000 unhoused individuals estimated by city officials, the vast majority are unsheltered or are self-sheltered on public land, which under city ordinance is illegal. Individuals self-sheltering on public or private land are frequently awakened and arrested. They lose their possessions if they are found sleeping on property signed “No Trespassing” because trespass charges may result in immediate arrest and loss of personal belongings.
Depriving fellow human beings of the possibility to shelter themselves when no adequate housing is available is a violation of their human rights.
While there is no doubt that the Lane County Poverty and Homelessness Board is doing its best to bring the treatment of the unhoused in line with Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which established housing as a human right, the reality is that a large number of Eugene’s residents not only don’t have housing, they are prohibited from seeking self shelter on public lands.
See City of Eugene Municipal Code : Section 4.815 – Prohibited Camping.
However, there are provisions in the Prohibited Camping ordinance that give the City Council the discretion to lift the camping ban for a designated period of time and in designated locations. Historically, the City Council has modified the camping ban on various occasions to alleviate homelessness. As far back as 1947, permission was granted for veterans to camp on public land in Eugene. The most recent accommodation was made in 2013 establishing legal rest stops and Opportunity Village Eugene.
While we are waiting for the Lane County Poverty and Homelessness Board to find solutions to the existing shortage of affordable housing, we request that the City Councilors hold a work session and look for a way to modify the camping and trespass ordinances, allowing for self-sheltering and designating additional land for rest stops.
Nightingale Health Sanctuary, a relatively new group organized for the purpose of establishing and operating a self-governed village-style community focused on health and wellness, is currently working with the city to set up a winter camp, and has proposed several potential locations. Additional unused public land, such as undeveloped parkland and city parking lots, need to be designated for self-managed camps for individuals who need shelter.
There is simply no time to waste. Let’s work together with advocates, representatives of the unhoused, the mayor, and city manager to designate locations where people in need of shelter can camp unmolested. To alleviate health and sanitation concerns, the City would need to provide funding for port-a-potties, hand washing stations and trash pick up at these locations. These “amenities” would cost the city considerably less than enforcement of no camping and trespass ordinances, and clean up following evictions. It will alleviate to some degree the precarious situation of the unhoused for the winter season. And it will reduce the various health hazards associated with rousting campers from various locations, as was carried out en masse this spring and summer without offering the displaced individuals safe and legal shelter.
Amigos Multicultural Services Center
Community Alliance of Lane County
Human Rights Commission Homelessness Work Group
Houseless Solutions Support Committee
Nightingale Health Sanctuary
Section 4.815 – Prohibited Camping
(1) As used in this section:
(a) “To camp” means to set up or to remain in or at a campsite.
(b) “Campsite” means any place where any bedding, sleeping bag, or other material used for bedding purposes, or any stove or fire is placed, established or maintained for the purpose of maintaining a temporary place to live, whether or not such place incorporates the use of any tent, lean-to, shack, or any other structure, or any vehicle or part thereof.[(2)]…
(3) No person shall camp in or upon any sidewalk, street, alley, lane, public right-of-way, park or any other publicly-owned property or under any bridge or viaduct, unless otherwise specifically authorized by this code or by declaration of the Mayor in emergency circumstances.
(4) Upon finding it to be in the public interest and consistent with council goals and policies, the council may, by motion, exempt a special event from the prohibitions of this section. The motion shall specify the period of time and location covered by the exemption.
(Section 4.815 amended by Ordinance No. 19163, enacted July 11, 1983; and Ordinance 20062, enacted September 16, 1996, effective October 16, 1996).