Eugene, agency agree to homeless ‘rest stop’

EUGENE, Ore. — A nonprofit agency known for creating 6-by-10-foot microhouses for the homeless plans to create Eugene’s first “rest stop” on city property.

It would allow up to 15 people to sleep overnight in tents. They would not be required to leave during the day. If the experiment succeeds, a second site could be set up this winter. The sites would be operational only through March.

The city of Eugene and Community Supported Shelters have signed an agreement to set up the spot in an industrial area near the Union Pacific rail yard, the Eugene Register-Guard reported Friday. The agency won’t be paid to supervise the site.

The agreement requires full-time supervision; clean, portable restrooms and trash collection; a roster of individuals allowed on the site; and a ban on alcohol and illegal drugs, said Michael Wisth, a city community programs analyst for the city.

Erik de Buhr, the executive director of the agency, said it will be known as Safe Spot for its emphasis on the safety of both residents and neighbors.

Writing in the paper, he said the agency plans to put five of the micro houses known as Conestoga huts on the property for carefully screened on-site managers.

Homeless people will feel safe because their personal belongings will be secure, even when they leave the camp, he said, and their tents will be on elevated platforms to keep them out of the rain.

Rules about noise, violence, theft, respect, cleanliness and community participation will be enforced, de Buhr said, and nearby businesses will be given a phone number to report problems.

“These camps will be `safe’ only if their neighbors feel safe being next to them,” he said.

Wisth said the city is encouraging the agency to make a priority at the “rest stop” sites for people now living in an illegal homeless camp dubbed “Whoville.”

“It’s in the city’s interest to get these ‘rest stops’ set up because we believe they’ll be safer and more manageable … and legal,” he said.

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