Whoville asks mayor to declare emergency, legalize homeless camp

Whoville asks mayor to declare emergency, legalize homeless camp »Play Video
Whoville Camp Number 9 at the corner of Broadway and Hilyard

EUGENE, Ore. -  Tension at the homeless camp known as Whoville is building.

Last week Friday, Eugene Police along with the City of Eugene posted no trespassing signs at the property at 703 East Broadway near the corner of Hilyard Street.

Police said campers are not allowed to be there and plan to shut down the camp sometime this week.

Thursday morning, homeless advocates and campers held a press conference calling on Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy to use emergency powers to legalize the Whoville camp until a second city-sanctioned homeless rest stop camp is established.

According to Eugene City Code 4.815, "It is unlawful for a person to camp in or upon any sidewalk, street, alley, park, or publicly-owned property."

Occupy Eugene representative Mary Broadhurst said the Mayor Piercy has the right to legalize the site under the code. She cites language in the city code: "Unless otherwise specifically authorized by this code or by declaration of the Mayor in emergency circumstances."

Eugene Human Rights Commission representative Ken Neubeck said the city is moving too slow.

"Some of the folks here are disabled, some of them in wheelchairs, some have serious mental health problems or substance abuse problems," Neubeck said. "Even in the best of times when there are beds available, some of these folks do not get readily accommodated by existing shelters."

Eugene Police said they would prefer not to have to arrest a number of campers and hope they will leave on their own in a couple of days.

The city plans to install a fence soon and begin moving campers off the site.

Homeless camper Nathan Showers has been at the site for four months. He said he has no plans of moving.

"Why now? Why? After four months, why now?" he said. "It's the worst part of the year to do this too. It's too cold."

Neubeck said in the past three weeks, two homeless people have died because they were un-housed.

"Whoville should be allowed to remain open until there are accessible and adequate alternatives for the folks here to move," he said.