On Nov. 28, the Lane County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of a program that will allow properties along River Road to house members of the homeless community overnight.
Under the homeless housing program, properties including churches and businesses can volunteer to house vehicle-owning members of the homeless community in their parking lots.
“This is a great program that allows people to live more stable lives,” Lane County Commissioner Pat Farr, one of the four commissioners who voted in favor of the housing program, said.
Farr, who had once been the executive director of FOOD for Lane County, had made homelessness and housing two of his major concerns before he had become a commissioner in 1995. Farr views the new homeless housing program as a means to allow the homeless community in Eugene to have access to basic necessities, such as bathrooms and garbage cans, as well as “a place to sleep safely.”
Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich voted against the program, but also said that he had “more a problem with the process than the program.”
“I actually support the program,” Bozievich said, adding that only about $40,000 would be used to fund the program and that the program has had a low number of complaints in Eugene communities.
Bozievich said that the complaints received from community members, such as in the Santa Clara area, were mainly due to a concern about an increase in crime, trash and homeless population in neighborhoods due to the program.
“These comments were based on bad information and a correlation between homelessness and crime,” Bozievich said, adding that the program would also not likely attract homeless people from other areas.
Misunderstandings and confusion within communities about the homeless housing program, Bozievich said, made him feel that the Lane County Commissioners and others involved in the program needed to reach out to and inform communities before carrying out the program.
According to Farr, the program will involve a “rigorous screening process” and will possibly be overseen by both Lane County and St. Vincent de Paul.
The program is not yet in effect, but Farr predicts that “by the end of this year, we’ll see some activity.”