Homeless Issues
12:06 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Eugene Shuts Down Whoville

Eugene Police surround Whoville camp Friday morning.
Eugene Police surround Whoville camp Friday morning.
Credit Rachael McDonald

Eugene Police surrounded an illegal homeless camp known as Whoville Friday morning and told the 30 or so residents to pack up and go. The City Council gave an April 15th deadline for the site to close.

EPD Lt. Doug Mozan walks through Whoville site while people pack up.
EPD Lt. Doug Mozan walks through Whoville site while people pack up.
Credit Rachael McDonald

Mozan: "Everybody that's in here is trespassing. Everyone needs to leave immediately. And they're doing that cooperatively. And we're giving people a chance to move their stuff and not be arrested. If somebody chooses to be arrested we'll facilitate that in as peaceful a way as possible."
 
Eugene Police Lieutenant Doug Mozan walks through the camp. He's friendly but firm. Residents are packing their bags and dismantling their tents.  

16-year old Alexis Edmundson is packed up to leave. She says the police arrival was a surprise.

Edmundson: "We were working on moving out and we thought that we had more time but then we don't."

She says the lot at the corner of East Broadway and Hilyard felt like a community.  

Edmundson: "Whoville was a home. It wasn't just a place for everyone to sleep. It was an actual home. A place where honestly I was so comfortable saying I lived there. I was so comfortable saying that's where I'm from."

Edmundson says she's moving to a campsite nearby, with friends. City of Eugene spokeswoman Jan Bohman acknowledges there are not enough shelter beds for Eugene's homeless population.

Bohman: "It's a big complicated problem. And that's why we're working hard to try to resolve it. It's not something the City of Eugene has the resources or the ability to solve."

The city has approved 3 rest stops, temporary camps for homeless people. One is up and running. Another is filling up.
Homeless advocates say they thought the city would give them more time to get the third site going before Whoville was closed. People have been at the Whoville site since September.
 

Friday afternoon, KLCC's Karen Richards stopped by the site for an update.  Police surrounded Eugene's Whoville homeless camp Friday morning and asked the 30 or so residents to leave. Most had moved out as of early Friday afternoon.

Whoville volunteers expected to have until the City Council's April 15th deadline to get everyone ready and packed up. Jennifer Frenzer is a homeless advocate. She said they'd planned a meeting Friday evening to assign tasks and help people leave in an orderly way. Instead, she says, it's been disruptive.

"I've watched people just fill up a shopping cart and walk away. So they're going back to whatever their "Plan B" usually is. Off to the river, to the woods."

Jacob Baird had been living at Whoville since the beginning of October. He was surprised when police showed up and asked everyone to leave. He's still considering where he'll go.

"Probably to the next spot. If there is one. If not, I don't know where I'm gonna go. I've been sleeping outside off and on for a good 15 years. I have no problems with it. I like nature."

City of Eugene spokeswoman Jan Bohman says the mayor met with homeless advocates after the eviction to discuss next steps. The City Council meets April 9th.

Police said three arrests were made at the site: Charles Smith, 63, Ambrose Hotham-Keathley, 22, and Ryan Stearns, 32. All were arrested for interfering with police. The rest of the campers left peacefully and voluntarily.