This article was written by University of Oregon master’s degree alumna Debra M. Josephson, who is not affiliated with the Emerald. It was submitted to the Emerald for publication. We have done fact checking and editing on the piece. Debra’s website can be found here.
Nightingale Health Sanctuary (NHS) is a legal, village-style rest stop for unhomed residents. The sanctuary is moving to land near NW Expressway and River Road on August 20. Since January 2015, NHS occupants have lived on land off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, behind Lane County Behavioral Health (LCBH.) This prime real estate is owned by the University of Oregon to host Duck tailgates. September kicks off the season and NHS has to leave so the land is prepared for the upcoming festivities.
Eugene has an estimated 3,000 residents unhoused. The trial-run rest stop program has shown promise in decreasing the unsheltered residents of this community.
30 NHS occupants (split into a double rest stop) lived behind LCBH on around one acre of land. The city deemed this program successful on their evaluations over the past several months.
“NHS has done a good job that I have oversaw. They have the track record to do it responsibly. They followed the rules that are in place and managed. Issues that had come up have been handled accordingly … [there have been] no issues with law enforcement, “ said Mike Kinnison, manager of human rights and neighborhood involvement for two and a half years.
NHS was created by the city ordinance in response to a deficit of shelter options in the community, says Kinnison.
He passed out flyers to the new neighbors on August 13 about the NHS community and the move.
Kinnison has been a positive support and liaison for NHS. He helped to secure the new land, which was previously part of a double rest stop area for veterans. Since this land was already approved by the city, there were no legalities to be handled for moving NHS.
Outreach was necessary to residences near the new rest stop because its location is on an open and exposed piece of land, visible to nearby residents. Kinnison says some residents nearby are supportive and happy to do their part while others are worried about the consequences that can occur with rest stops.
“We make clear to folks that this is a managed program. Rules are in place to control [the rest stop] by having a limited capacity, fencing and onsite management with trash removal and bathroom maintenance. The program in place has been successful,” Kinnison said. There will be a five-block radius from the gated rest stop where NHS occupants will not be allowed to sit or solicit for money.
Nathan “Red” Showers, a NHS advocate and resident, said that there are about sixteen NHS residents who have found permanent housing since NHS’s beginning earlier this year — thanks to having a safe place as a foundation providing sleep, meals and community support.
“Although some may feel this [program] is codependent, it provides an opportunity and a niche within social services for unhoused residents to reacquaint themselves with normal relationships and be encouraged to get help and get a job,“ said Tracy Joscelyn, an original NHS resident and civic leader.
Joscelyn said a book with a detailed map will be made for all those within the camp community to understand the neighborhood boundaries and guidelines. New residents have to prove their understanding and responsibilities to NHS, including the no drugs/alcohol rule, keeping dogs on a six-foot leash and helping with chores.
NHS has been an example of how to mantain a self-governing rest stop for others in the area and around the state, said Joscelyn.
The program was originally approved by Eugene City Council (ECC) last December in response to the Whoville movement of 2014. The movement was “an unsanctioned tent sanctuary made up of mostly homeless and some housed people who are protesting for the right to sleep,” said Nightingale Public Advocacy Collective’s (NPAC) website.
“This will be a well-managed and safe place to help [NHS members] get to better places in their lives, ” said Sabra Marcroft, an NHS Steering Committee member.
NHS will now be on 0.5 acres, permitting a single occupancy of twenty individuals. Joscelyn said their community is responsible for moving their own belongings, with the support of volunteers.
However, the new lot is temporary. NHS can only legally remain on the lot for up to six months, said Marcroft.
NHS and city staff are still looking for more permanent housing for the group, utilizing the generous anonymous donation given for that purpose last year. This has been challenging with how many regulations are in place. These regulations include stricts codes about location in reference to schools and residential locations as well as the operations of utilities within the house, said Joscelyn.
“If anyone knows of any place, you’re greatly encouraged to contact us through Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC),” said Marcroft.
For more details, contact Mike Kinnison: