Former homeless man urges city to act to end SLEEPS protest camps

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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Stephen McIver is 63 and a Marine Corps veteran.

He thinks the City of Eugene and Lane County need to be firmer about shutting down the SLEEPS protest camps.

In that regard, he might not be alone.

But consider: Stephen McIver was homeless, off and on, from 1970 to 1994. He estimates he lived on the streets for at least half of those 24 years.

Now McIver and his wife of 20 years, Barbara, live in a small apartment in Springfield.

He reached out to share his story as a person who was formerly homeless.

"I'm quite certain they're going to stay there as long as the city tolerates them, and they could be trouble in the future," he said. "I mean if you really look at what they're saying it's just an excuse to camp out. They're taking advantage of the city, and the city is letting them get away with it."

He worries the SLEEPS protest camps will stick around indefinitely - and he's concerned that if they do stick around, they will end in violence like the Occupy Eugene camp. City officials closed that camp after a man died there in December 2011.

From his perspective, both Opportunity Village and the "rest stops" emergency camping sites hold promise for helping people who find themselves without a home.

The rest stops proposal, which got a cool response Monday from protesters, would allow up to 15 people to camp overnight at designated spots inside the City of Eugene. Camps would have to break down every morning and not establish an ongoing presence at the site.

McIver said he knows life on the street is hard. He went through the process to qualify for VA benefits to get off the streets and into a modest apartment.

"It may take a while, and they're going to have to persist and not give up, but it can be done," he said.