'We lost business. People did not want to stay that close to Whoville'

'We lost business. People did not want to stay that close to Whoville' »Play Video
The camp is nestled on a piece of City of Eugene-owned property, up against the outside wall of the 66 Motel.

EUGENE, Ore. - As the City of Eugene works to close the Whoville camp on the corner of Hilyard and Broadway after 4 months, much of the debate has centered on the issue of homelessness.

Less talked about: the impact on the businesses adjacent to the camp.

"They're trying to stop homelessness. They have a right to sleep," said Steven Graves, whose fiance works near the camp, "but in reality they're actually perpetuating the cycle because they're going to cause other people to become homeless after they lose their job."

The campers claim nearby businesses are OK with the tent city - or even support it.

"We've gotten a lot of support from Cafe Yumm," said Whoville resident Aurora Richardson. "They let us use their meeting room."

"I don't think we've had any altercation or problem with them at all," Richardson said of other nearby businesses.

Bob Walker, who manages the 66 Motel against which Whoville is nestled, disagrees.

"We lost business during our football season," Walker said. "We had vacancies during our football season because people did not want to stay that close to Whoville."

"I'm considering not even opening for lunch any more," said Maria Reyes, owner of Daniel's Mexican restaurant across Hilyard from Whoville. "I wish they could find  a great place, but I don't think that's the best place for them."

"It's a double-edge sword down there," Walker said. "We have a problem in Eugene. We need to work with the homeless. They need to work with the businesses as well."

In the meantime, neighboring businesses are looking to the City of Eugene to improve the situation. The City owns the property, and city law forbids camping on public property. The City of Eugene recently posted "No Trespassing" signs in an effort to close the piece of land to everyone.

"I'll be frank with you," Walker said. "In my contacts with the city, they've specifically said, 'We don't know how to handle this situation.'"