SLEEPS protest makes plans to spread

EUGENE, Ore. -- Protesters pitching tents in the Free Speech Plaza have made plans to split up and spread to other sites, including one in the park blocks used by the Eugene Saturday Market.

Organizers with SLEEPS (or the Safe, Legally-Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep) estimate that 80 people slept at the free speech plaza Monday after a Eugene judge nullified 21 trespassing citations. The ruling found it unconstitutional to kick protesters out at nightfall.

Since the court ruling the plaza has been filled to at-capacity levels with SLEEPS protesters who are pitching tents to find a permanent solution to homeless sleeping areas.

Now protest organizers say they've made plans to cross the street and make a separate camp near where the Eugene Saturday Market sets up.

"The last thing people here want to do is to be a burden to other people who want to carry on their business. The issue is with the city and county," said SLEEPS protester Alley Valkyrie.

Community Relations Director Jan Bohman said Eugene allocated $225,000 to existing homeless services in the city.

"The council took action and allocated some additional money that went for a number of efforts," said Bohman. "From the cities point of view it's a county issue the city is not involved in that demonstration right now."

Valkyrie said SLEEPS protesters believe that whether or not the problem is addressed, the nearly 1,700 estimated homeless people living in Eugene need a permanent place to sleep at night.

"A lot of it has to do with political pressure, it has to do from pressure from business community, from residences from people who don't want the homeless in their community," Valkyrie said.

Bohman said the council is considering a "dusk 'til dawn" temporary campsite to accommodate more people.

Our news staff called Saturday Market organizers to get their take on the new SLEEPS location, however they haven't responded.