Downtown Eugene businesses praise shelter reversal, face backlash

Downtown Eugene Inc. executive director Claire Barnum sent the letter to city leaders earlier this month.

Posted: Nov 16, 2018 6:40 PM
Updated: Nov 16, 2018 6:48 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- More Than 30 businesses and organizations signed a letter thanking the Eugene City Council for reversing their decision to place a temporary dawn to dusk homeless shelter on the old city hall lot, and now some of them are facing a backlash.

Downtown Eugene Inc. executive director Claire Barnum sent the letter to city leaders earlier this month, and in the letter, the businesses said they want to be a part of the solution. However, some are accusing them of being anti-homeless.

Barnum said they felt the proposed shelter wasn't well-suited for the area because it lacked some services and was too close to downtown businesses. They are praising the city for working with the county on the Highway 99 camp instead.

"It didn't have access to showers, three meals a day -- like the new site is offering," Barnum said.

Since the letter was first made public, some business owners who signed off on the letter have gotten negative feedback. People online say they are going to boycott the businesses, calling them anti-homeless.

Geoff Ostrove of the Downtown Eugene Merchants signed off on the letter. He said he's not opposed to a downtown shelter but wishes the city worked with them before they made their decision to go ahead with the temporary shelter. Ostrove said in the letter they make it clear they want to be a part of the solution.

"The fact that we care enough to reach out to the city council and the county saying that we want to be part of the conservation, I don’t think that should be a trigger saying we are anti-homeless," Ostrove said. "I think that should be a trigger to say how much we care and how much we want to be a part of the conversation."

Eugene City Councilor Emily Semple said while Camp 99 is helping, some people want to stay in downtown Eugene. Semple said as they continue to look for solutions to help the homeless, they are making more of an effort to get others involved.

"I do think the city will be making an outreach, and I hope that this group of level, large shareholders will also step up," Semple said.

Semple said the city still has the funding for a shelter and is still looking for a location.

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