Photo by Jennifer Frenzer-Knowlton

Stop The Sweeps

Local activists spotlight police evictions of homeless camps

It is that moment — in open space with no corners to worry about, in plain sight, just part of the fabric of urban existence and survival — when the isolation is sometimes eased a little for a homeless person.

Be it a park, a field, a lot or a curb, the homeless person is away from the judgement of “the busy” with a chance to slow the mind and digest the day. Perhaps they will talk to themselves and re-enact the injustice of the day or of the years to make sense of it all, or to just hear their voice in the face of silence. It is a chance to let their guard down.

Paradoxically, the homeless are home.

Except they are not, and they know it. The brutal mechanized police sweeps will come soon enough. From there, the homeless person will again have to put on their defensive armor and navigate the corners, hiding from the judgement of “the busy” and just be part of the fabric of urban existence and survival, with nowhere to go.

The Eugene “Stop The Sweeps Gathering” was Monday at the noon hour at the Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse on E. 8th Avenue. It was the local National Homeless Memorial Day gathering, a 30-year-old national movement dedicated to the homeless and which falls on or near Dec. 21, winter solstice.

One message of the gathering was that not everyone will survive, and no one — from city government to police to especially the homeless — walks away from the destruction of homeless encampments with their dignity intact.

Roughly 50 people (advocates and homeless) mingled. A large banner declaring Dec. 21 National Homeless Memorial Day had the added line of “We pause to remember the unhoused people who have died in our community.”

Socks, stocking caps, coats and food were made available to the homeless who needed them. There were small candles for men and women to commemorate the homeless on the solstice. Also, the event was formed to help raise awareness of the pressing storm that the homeless feel daily.

It was put on by a coalition of groups, including White Bird, Eugene Catholic Worker and a developing organization called The Way Forward, whose “modest goal,” says spokesman Nicholas Furrow, is to end homelessness in five years “and the sweeps right now,” especially along the Washington/Jefferson bridge area.

A more formal Candlelight Vigil for the Eugene homeless men and women who have died on the street this year is 6 pm Jan. 8 at Washington/Jefferson Park on W. 1st Avenue.

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