Eugene Council approves homeless village

EUGENE, Ore. - You could call it a small victory for the homeless population in Eugene.

It's just weeds and dirt now, but by next summer, an empty city-owned lot near North Garfield Street and Roosevelt Boulevard could look a lot different.

"It'll be a small village, we'll have a communal kitchen and bathrooms, a big dining room and assembly hall," said Opportunity Village board member Jean Stacey.

In a 6 to 1 vote Monday, Eugene's City Council approved the site as the future Opportunity Village, a micro-housing pilot project for the city's homeless.

"We had gotten to the point where we had enough information to make a decision so it was time to do that," said city councilor Alan Zelenka. "I didn't want to wait another month before we did that."

Zelenka said they took several months to look at five different city owned properties including the former Naval Reserve Center on Chambers Street and an area near Autzen Stadium.

"This one was the best one," said Zelenka. "It had the lowest controversy, it had access to transit and bike paths and it had access to utilities."

Over the next six months the city will choose a non-profit to run the program which will house about 30 people according to Zelenka.

"It will not be what we saw at the Occupy tent camp at Jefferson Park, it's not gonna look like that at all," he said. "It's going to be much more organized, it will be little micro-housing structures."

According to Zelenka, the non-profit will figure out how to pay for it, how to operate it and how to maintain it.

"The non-profit will run this. The city's role, again, we're just letting them use the land for a while. That's the entire role of the city at this point," he said.

The lot won't see any inhabitants or activity until at least next summer while the city gets the necessary permits and leasing in place.

Still Stacey said this vote is a win for homeless.

"Symbolically it's very important because it is one of the first alternative shelters that Eugene has considered," she said. "I think it's an excellent location."