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Nightingale Health Sanctuary Seeks a Site

Rest stop for the unhoused needs a home and an answer from the city

Nightingale Health Sanctuary (NHS), a city-sanctioned rest stop, needs help from its supporters. 

As many of you know, the Eugene Mission generously gave NHS a site on its property last August when we had to move from our site on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. This partnership between the Mission and NHS has worked out well. NHS residents like the Mission site and Mission staff have expressed satisfaction with the residents and the way the camp managers have run the camp. The Mission director has said he would be willing to have NHS remain at the site until the Mission is ready to do something else with it. 

Although city staffers claim that they have been trying for two years to locate a long-term site for NHS, they recently presented us with a contract, which essentially asks us to empty our camp by April 16. They want us to send some NHS residents into a camp run by another group and others into a car camp. 

We understand that the city wants to take some pressure off Ward 7, which currently provides space for all the rest stops, as well as Opportunity Village Eugene and the Mission. However, even if NHS sends its campers to another organization’s rest stop, they will still be in the Ward 7, and many will still use the Mission. 

Also, unhoused people, like most people in Eugene, recognize the Whiteaker as the city’s most open and supportive neighborhood and so often head there.

Over the past few months NHS members have spent hours looking at potential sites and have sent suggestions along with photos of those we found suitable to the city. We have never received any response to any of our suggested sites. Last month we had a meeting with the city at which we requested city staff respond to some of the sites for rest stops that we had suggested. They have not yet given us any response.

The city owns many lots and undeveloped parks, suitable for a rest stop, including a huge empty lot downtown where the old City Hall used to be. NHS would be happy to have a small space on any of these lots — we need only about a third of an acre. 

The city claims they want a rest stop in every ward, and yet they can’t even find one site for a rest stop that has been up and running successfully since 2014. At our last meeting the administrators we met with were very discouraging, telling NHS they did not think they/we could find a suitable site before our current contract runs out, and that they want to wait until neighborhoods come forward with a plan for a rest stop in their area. 

Please write to your mayor and city councilors at mayorcouncilandcitymanager@ci.eugene.or.us, and let them know you are a supporter of NHS and would like the city staff to work harder at finding a site for the Nightingale Health Sanctuary. Also, if you know of any public or private land that might serve as a good site for NHS, please let us know by leaving a comment on our Facebook page or writing to us at nightingalehealthsanctuary@gmail.com.

Vickie Nelson is on the NHS Steering Committee but this column represents her thoughts and is not an official statement by NHS. EW’s Mic Check column represents voices from Occupy Eugene and some of the organizations that arose from it.