Whoville Good or Bad for Business?

While Whovillians say their informal survey showed business support for the homeless protest camp, some nearby business owners say that since the camp moved in, disturbances are up. Angie Rush, a manager at The Mission Mexican Restaurant, says that since Whoville set up, it has lost a significant portion of its college student business, one of its main customer bases.

“We’ve had numerous incidences where we’ve had to call the police,” Rush says. She adds that because the effects of the camp are so negative, The Mission is no longer allowing anyone associated with the camp into the restaurant.

“It’s the intoxicated folks who are the problem,” Rush says. “The ones who are not intoxicated are not coming in.” She says that the situation has escalated to the extent that The Mission is doubling up on staff, costing it a lot of money, especially for a small, family-owned business. Rush contacted EW after a story ran about positive relationships between Whoville and its business neighbors.

Rush tells EW that another nearby business has had to add a lock to its water spigot because water was being stolen. Other businesses that were contacted didn’t respond by press time or didn’t wish to comment.

“It hasn’t created a problem; it’s displaced a problem,” says Alley Valkyrie, a local homeless advocate. She adds that she’s not entirely surprised that local businesses aren’t thrilled with the camp. “Some of the most hardcore problem people from downtown, the frequent fliers, the drunks, the drug addicts — many of them have taken residence down in Whoville,” she says. “Whoville’s really speaking right now to the desperate need for wet-bed facilities in Eugene.”

Wet beds or wet housing are facilities for homeless people who use drugs and alcohol. The theory is that in addition to humanitarian purposes, that people who will continue to use drugs and alcohol in spite of all consequences should do so in an environment that can be somewhat managed, rather than on the street, where they are recycled in and out of the legal system (see the 2011 EW cover story on wet beds at wkly.ws/1bp).

Valkyrie says that putting some money into rest stops or other facilities could achieve a safe place to sleep in a way that’s more compatible with the rest of the community, especially given the costs of shuffling chronic drug users and alcoholics through the criminal justice system. She adds, “It’s to absolutely no one’s benefit to close Whoville and displace the problem again.”