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Human Rights Commission on Whoville

The Eugene Human Rights Commission has weighed in on the city's plan to shut down and fence off the Whoville homeless camp, according to an email circulating on Facebook pages that call for aiding the unhoused of Eugene.

January 22, 2014

Dear Mayor, CIty Councilors, and City Manager,

The Eugene Human Rights Commission (HRC) is very concerned with the health and safety of the 40 to 50 residents of Whoville at Broadway and Hilyard. We understand at EPD plans to close the protest camp down and disperse its residents. Among Whoville's residents are people who are disabled, some in wheel chairs, as well as people who suffer from severe mental health issues and substance abuse problems. Such people are often not readily accommodated by shelter services even when beds are available. It is not clear where the residents will go if the camp is shut down.

The HRC unanimously recommends that the following immediate action be taken: Rescind current plans to close Whoville and allow those who presently reside there to remain. This could be done in a number of ways, including a mayoral declaration of a housing emergency that would allow people to stay at Whoville legally. We believe the Whoville residents should be permitted to remain until adequate and accessible alternatives are available.

We also recommend that the City expand the number of operating Rest Stops to at least four. On sis already open. However, specific reasons cited at our HRC meeting by the unhoused and their advocates regarding the City-approved Northwest Expressway site make it unviable as a second site. We believe three additional Rest Stop sites should be established including the site at 8th and Mill favored by advocates for the homeless before closure of the Whoville location is considered. Inclusion of such advocates in the selection of additional sites may expedite the selection process.

From a human rights perspective, a perspective mandated by Eugene's revised Human Rights Ordinance and to which the HRC is highly committed, the recommended actions fall short of fulfilling the human right to housing. However these actions are important steps toward recognizing the basic human right of every person to life, health, and personal security.

Sincerely yours,

Andrew Thomson, Chair

Chris Nunes, Vice Chair

Eugene Human Rights Commission

The HRC is recuiting for four new members to serve on the commission, the application period ends March 28.