The Veterans Safe Spot, one of three “rest stops” managed by Community Supported Shelters (CSS), is moving from its current location at Chambers and Northwest Expressway to a 7.5-acre Eugene Mission property off West 1st Avenue. Ron Siever, a veteran at the safe spot, says he and other veterans are concerned about the new rules required to move onto Mission property, which include total sobriety, abstinence from drugs and no pets.
On July 7, CSS gave notice to veterans that they needed to clear the Veterans Safe Spot by July 19 or be charged for trespassing. The letter says that the new location opens July 17.
The new property features six “Conestoga huts” with electrical outlets and four more huts that are ready to go. The letter says that veterans needed to contact CSS by July 10 or “there may be a lapse in you receiving shelter services through CSS.”
The impending move has drawn criticism from veterans staying at the Northwest Expressway camp. Siever writes that the process presents obstacles because several veterans have service animals and use medical marijuana. When they attempt to voice their concern, Siever says, they are told to call and schedule an appointment, which is a challenge because most of the veterans don’t have phones.
“It’s kind of easy to make a phone call these days,” says Erik de Buhr, executive director of CSS, adding that if anyone is serious about continuing to utilize CSS, they “know where to find us.”
The Eugene Mission has a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy, and de Buhr says that any veteran not complying with this policy will be required to enter a 90-day rehab program or leave. The policy at the old camp allowed vets to drink off-site, and residents were only evicted after being caught drinking on-site three times.
The Mission’s model is the opposite of Housing First, which centers on first finding housing for the homeless, then providing services as needed. Local advocates for the unhoused have called on Eugene to switch to a Housing First model.
De Buhr says that whether the veterans can have pets “has not been clarified,” and according to Dana Gray, senior director of operations at the Eugene Mission, she and de Buhr are continuing to work on it. She mentioned the process may involve an interview and proof from a doctor that the animal is medically necessary.
De Buhr says he ultimately wants a “smooth transition where there is no lapse in service to anybody unless that’s what he or she chooses” but also notes “there is a rebel-like tendency in homeless culture, and it will be up to them to decide what to do in the end.”