Eugene moves to allow homeless to camp on vacant lots

Eugene moves to allow homeless to camp on vacant lots »Play Video
A makeshift homeless camp blends in near Eugene's Ferry Street Bridge.

EUGENE, Ore. - Eugene City Code forbids camping in parks and other public places.

But people who are homeless camp nonetheless, and the impact of that camping causes damage to public parks.

The Eugene City Council voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to open the door to allow legal overnight camping for the homeless on vacant city land not already used as established parks.

Councilors want to run a 4-month pilot project and see what happens.

"We really need to balance the reality of people needing to sleep with the needs of residents to be able to use our parks as intended," said Councilor Claire Syrett.

"Someone's got to take the lead, and I think the Eugene City Council - I think it's us," said Councilor George Brown "We need to take the lead."

"We do need to look at relocating some of the homeless who are currently camping in developed parks," said Councilor Greg Evans.

Homeless advocates have been pressing the city to repeal the ban on overnight sleeping in parks. They endorse the proposed pilot project.

"I saw a definite change and a definite sense of commitment and so I'm very touched by that, on behalf of the folks who live on the street," said Jean Stacey with SLEEPS.

"We can come together and say, let's figure out a way to accommodate this new neighborhood that has come to us, without bankrupting ourselves," Councilor Chris Pryor said.

The proposal would also allow camping on land owned by churches and non-profit groups and on private, commercial lands if the owner gives permission.

City officials would like to start the pilot project this summer if it gets final approval.