I am writing this letter because of Ivory Irene McCuen, who froze to death on Jan. 24. I know this is not a singular incident and once again highlights the urgent need for more resources to address mental health and homelessness in our community. At the Feb. 8 city council meeting Mayor Lucy Vinis proposed that community members provide a space for the unhoused at their residence; as long as there is access to facilities, this is a legal option.
Although this may be a good option for some, it is completely unacceptable to defer this responsibility to the community. Along with astronomical housing prices and the recent fires, mental health plays a huge role in our homeless crisis. Many of us do not have skills to support people in crisis suffering mental illness, and although not always the case, it can be dangerous without adequate training and resources.
At the same time the city does not have money to provide shelter or adequate mental health care, the Eugene City Council recently passed the community “safety” payroll tax without allowing the community to vote on it. This tax will be used primarily to increase police funding. The community has spoken loudly that we want to defund the police and utilize the money for services our community so desperately needs.
The inhuman death of a community member who lacked access to resources clearly illustrates the intense inequity in services available and unacceptable priorities of our city government.