Zero tolerance at Mission: 'I was crushing meth pipes every other day'

EUGENE, Ore. - The Eugene Mission plans to cut the number of homeless people the facility houses each night, institute random drug and alcohol tests - and ban people who violate those rules.

"It's created in a short period of time a much safer atmosphere," said Jack Tripp, the Mission director. "The weeks prior to this happening, I was crushing meth pipes every other day."

Tripp said the population seeking shelter at the Mission has hit 500 people on some recent nights.

With a staff of 22, Tripp said that is too many to handle.

Starting August 1, the Mission will cap nightly admissions at 360 people.

Tripp said more guests with drug and alcohol issues have been seeking shelter, prompting the Mission to implement tougher policies.

Those include random drug and alcohol tests, as well as bans for people caught violating the rules.

If caught drunk or drinking alcohol at the Mission, guests face a 3-month ban.

If caught with drugs, guests face a 6-month ban.

Some of the problems may have come from people in trouble with the law who were released from jail and had nowhere else to go.

Tripp said cuts to the Lane County Jail last year resulted in a small increase in guests, about 10-15 women and 40 men per night. Due to a lack of space, the jail routinely releases people accused of crimes who have yet to post bail or go through the justice system.

A voter-approved tax measure allowed the sheriff to re-open some jail beds.

The changes come as City of Eugene officials deliberate where - and whether - to allow legal homeless camps. The city and other public land management agencies have started cracking down on illegal homeless camps in parks and other public lands.

Memo outlining changes at the Eugene Mission