According to Kristen Brandt, a Whoville supporter and Occupy Eugene member, the homeless camp Whoville moved from their location on 6th Avenue on Saturday and established a new campsite on Shelton McMurtry blvd after ongoing pressure from the Eugene Police.
The camp’s inhabitants have renamed the camp back to its original name, SLEEPS (Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep) and will continue protesting the city’s ban on camping within city limits and human rights violations.
“There will be a city council meeting on Monday, December 8 which many advocates for unhoused people will be attending,” Brandt said.
Whoville was originally established about a year ago in the late summer between Broadway and Hilyard when the SLEEPS organization demanded a safe place for homeless people to sleep.
“At the original site, we were able to keep a better eye on the ‘fragile’ residents. We have found that 15-30 people works a lot better than 40-50 people,” Brandt said.
“Our plan has been to have them stay somewhere for a while, get a few citations and then move to a new spot and start all over again,” Brandt said.
Residents of Whoville participated in a rally to protest City Council’s reluctance to label the original Whoville location a legal campsite.
After a “No Camping” sign goes up, campers have 24 hours to leave the site.
“The residents at the new location are more involved with the politics and issues at hand with the camping ban. People do not understand that this is a protest. The tent is a symbol of protest and freedom of speech,” Brandt said.
The police say homelessness is not illegal, but camping in the city is.
“Homelessness isn’t exactly a police issue, but rather a community issue. There’s nothing illegal about being homeless,” Melinda McLaughlin, the Eugene Police spokeswoman, said.
Lynn Porter, a local homeless advocate says that the city of Eugene’s camping ban is the long-standing problem.
“The city’s camping ban essentially criminalizes homelessness since people have to sleep somewhere. Cops continually harass the homeless, making them move on, sometimes giving them tickets they can’t pay and arresting them if they stay put,” Porter said.
The city of Eugene did not return requests from the Emerald for comment.
Porter hopes that The Nightingale Health Sanctuary will serve as a shelter for 30 homeless individuals in the near future.
“This will be a double “rest stop” camp, allowed under a city ordinance. The county has offered the use of some of their land on MLK north of Autzen,” Porter said
Nightingale Health Sanctuary is planning to use the MLK location for the winter and then look for a more permanent home.
For now, the city will uphold its camping ban and activists alongside the members of Whoville continue to make the most out of the situation.
Besides Nightingale Health Sanctuary, the recently launched Lane County Poverty & Homelessness Board has a number of programs in place to shelter more people this winter, along with the Egan Warming Centers and St. Vincent de Paul’s car camping program.
Follow Hailey Geller on Twitter @hgeller30