The Nightingale Health Sanctuary has established a community where people who experience homelessness can sleep and securely store their belongings, while practicing a safe and productive lifestyle. All 30 residents who live in the camp are provided information and resources to help them move forward.
The Eugene Rest Stop Program, which oversees the Nightingale sanctuary, was created in hopes of getting Eugene’s homeless off the streets. Behind the Behavioral Health Service building, across from Autzen Stadium, are 30 tent-like units that house the residents. Each resident must abide by the rules of the camp. An example being no drugs or alcohol are allowed on the premise.
“We have no theft [in this camp] and we police our own camp — we’re all neighbors,” Nathan Showers, resident and camp manager, said. Showers also mentioned six or seven Lane students who were residents of Nightingale Rest Stop last year who have since found permanent housing.
This rest stop is one of five rest stops that each hold around 20 residents. Eugene conducts a headcount of the homeless each year as required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of January 2016, there are approximately 1,500 people that are homeless in Eugene.
Although there are some concerns about the camps — such as cleanliness, safety and leadership — Kitty Piercy, mayor of Eugene, commends the program and its residents.
“We know that these camps are safe, well run and are neat and tidy,” Piercy said.
According to Eugene’s official website, the city has made it a priority to help people who experience homelessness and has invested over $4.4 million into the Human Services Commission to help fund programs like Nightingale.
“Everyone matters. This is a 30 member community and every single one of us matters,” Lori Henney, Nightingale resident, said. “I would like the community to open up more rest stops.”
Piercy acknowledges the progress of the program while also noting there is still more to be done.
“I think the Rest Stop Program has been very successful,” Piercy said. “We still struggle with locations. Unless people come visit and see how we operate, they still worry about it being in their neighborhood. We still have work to do in that regard.”
Currently, there are no formal plans to open more rest stops, but Mayor Piercy is hopeful that the program will expand.