10-year-old homeless advocate spends weekend on the streets

EUGENE, Ore. - A 10-year old Junction City boy camped with Eugene's homeless Friday for a night to get a first-hand experience of what homeless life is like. After his stay on the streets, Keegan Keppner pledged to help the homeless.

Keppner started helping the homeless back in January by donating a home-cooked meal to the people living at the Whoville camp formerly on Broadway and Hilyard.

Since then he made a symbolic walk to the state capitol to meet with Gov. John Kitzhaber, spoken at Eugene City Council public forums, and conducted sit-ins with advocates inside the city manager's office.

Keppner met Congressman Peter DeFazio in his downtown office on Wednesday. The two chatted about how they could alleviate pressure on the homeless in Eugene.

Keppner said he was disappointed that Congressman DeFazio wasn't able to help more.

Two days later, Keppner and several SLEEPS supporters challenged Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz to sleep on the streets for at least 24-hours.

Keppner said everyone is entitled to their own opinion after they've tried it for themselves.

"You need to see what they're like before you make your opinion. Like, I like them or no, I don't," Keppner said, "I think people should treat each other the same. We're mostly all the same. We are all a big family."

Ruiz denied his challenge, but Keppner held true to his promise.

With the supervision of his father, Keppner and others camped under the Ferry Street Bridge on Friday and at the homeless camp at the Old Federal Building on the corner of 7th and Pearl on Saturday.

He said he learned about Occupy Medical and about some of the services available. Keppner said he also kept track of the cheers and jeers.

"Two people told me to get a job, and I'm ten," he said. "[Seven] people did thumbs up and they waived. That made me feel really good."

Keppner's looking forward to starting school again on Monday and to see his classmates, who he said are proud of his accomplishments. He's not really sure what's next, but said he'll think of something.