Homeless In Friendly Eugene

Eugene has an identity crisis of seeming friendly and progressive, but it is an illusion, a vestige long gone. Criminalization of homelessness and malignant rudeness to street people are the accepted norm: class warfare. The city is managed in a cruel way: broken sidewalks near White Bird, unsafe streets, locked (or deplorable) Porta-Potties, water fountains shut off year-round, nowhere warm or safe to go.

Callboxes? Safe space? Those yellow signs you occasionally see at fire halls and convenience stores are meaningless. You can be arrested for sitting on the Rosa Parks bench at LTD. If you say “FTP” in Kesey Square you can be hauled away for disorderly conduct. The Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza is often closed. Nothing is free or fun.

Choose rudeness and perhaps we will go away? Follow the money — law enforcement job security for keeping us here. The scapegoating and stigma against mental illness and homelessness is blatant, yet Lane County is a trap for “undesirables” like me: an involuntary, disabled, needy burden on society. 

I did not want to move to Eugene but law enforcement made it so. Now I’m your problem. I’ve been stuck here, homeless at times, for one and a half years and I’m not allowed to move away, but the city hasn’t provided any resources, just endless court appointments and probation officers for petty nuisance crimes, being mentally ill and impoverished.

I’ve met great people and I feel there is more hope for Eugene than in Springfield, but it is cold and scary out there. If it takes COVID-19 or forest fires to make people realize that, then so be it. Social Darwinism makes us all losers. Marginalized people are everywhere, and small kindnesses — a smile, just basic respect — help. 

Leslie Shoemaker


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