After six years couch surfing in different local government buildings, Eugene lost its squatters rights and is now officially homeless.
The declaration came in a letter sent by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness after finding out Eugene doesn’t have a City Hall. The letter also states that technically, the city has been homeless since 2014 when the former City Hall was torn down.
Mayor Lucy Vinis and other city officials are telling residents not to worry, citing the revamped Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) report as Eugene’s saving grace. Vinis tells Eugene Weekly that the report, which originally was geared towards helping unhoused people, has been updated with specific, easily achievable goals for getting the city off the streets. If the TAC report guidelines are followed carefully, Eugene could have a City Hall by the year 2050.
“It sounds like a long time, but we are fairly confident we can meet these goals,” Vinis says. “Unfortunately, this means we will have to put the other TAC report items on hold, which we were already behind on.”
This new and improved TAC report — which came at a $500,000 consulting fee — includes plans for a City Hall to be built on a downtown lot that was originally dedicated to a low-barrier shelter for unhoused individuals.
Vinis says she is aware that like other homeless individuals, Eugene is now considered a “criminal” and will probably rack up thousands of dollars in illegal camping fines.
Following the declaration of Eugene being homeless, a vigil for the formerly housed city was held in the middle of the parking lot where the old City Hall once stood.
The grief was palpable as city employees lit candles and shared memories of when Eugene was housed. Many mourned for the bureaucratic mess the city leadership created. Even former City Manager Jon Ruiz showed up, shedding a single tear in solidarity before other attendees told him to leave.
“I don’t see why people blame me for this,” Ruiz said at the vigil. “I left office so it wouldn’t be my problem anymore. It’s up to the current administrator, council and mayor to see this out.”
But the Eugene City Council can’t meet anytime soon.
Federal guidelines for unhoused cities say that most city services need to be shut down until the problem is remedied. Some community members have shared concern that chaos and anarchy will follow, wondering if there is no city leadership or police, who will be responsible for tear gassing journalists and peaceful protesters?
Vinis says she has faith in Eugeneans.“We are in this together, Eugene,” she says.
She adds the gold-plated plaque designating the city’s homeless status will arrive Monday, though she says she isn’t sure where it will go since there is no building to hang it in.