Cop on homeless: 'Look past their bad behavior and see the need'

Cop on homeless: 'Look past their bad behavior and see the need'

EUGENE, Ore. - In the conference room at West University police substation, things are getting messy.

"Some shoes and boots that have been brought in, quite a few socks which are like gold among the homeless community," Randy Ellis says.

It's a mess with a purpose for Officer Ellis. "I mean, before this is all over we'll have this room half full."

Full of shoes, boots, socks, blankets and more: It won't be long before the nights are freezing, and Ellis is determined to make it warmer on the streets for people without homes.
In his 42 years on the beat in Eugene, Ellis has had many assignments, but no cause is closer to him now than the homeless - and he'd like your help.

Ellis says this program tries to reach what he calls "the bottom of the food chain of the homeless.  They have an Oregon Trail card to spend for food and nothing to spend for clothing. That's why clothing is so important."

Ellis says yes, some of the homeless cause trouble, and he's arrested a few,.

"It finally dawned on me personally, I had to look past their bad behavior and see the need that they have, and address it," he says.

Ellis managed to spread the warmth for hundreds of homeless people last year, to the tune of about $6,100. 

This year with the help of a west Eugene merchant, he hopes to do even more.

Owner Don DeZarn of Pacific Headware backed Ellis last year with a $2,500 matching donation. This time, he's raised it to $3,500.

"Last year my wife and I decided to get involved and help him because we really felt that the homeless problem in Eugene is a big problem," says DeZarn.

He adds the simple outreach to the homeless, with no bureaucracy, convinced him to raise his support.

"It's just one guy going and buying a truckload of stuff and showing up somewhere, putting the word out and handing out the stuff to the people," explains DeZarn.

Officer Ellis fully expects to top last year's donations because, he says, people in Eugene care.

"If they have the ability to help and they don't do it, people know that that's wrong, so they do it," says Ellis.

If you want to chip in, drop off your clothing or cash donations at the 13th and Alder/ West University substation or at Eugene Police headquarters on Country Club Road. The deadline is November 19th.