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Homeless & Addicted in Eugene: The challenging road to recovery

Watch #LiveOnKVAL Monday, November 25, at 11 p.m. for more on this story.
Watch #LiveOnKVAL Monday, November 25, at 11 p.m. for more on this story.
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EUGENE, Ore. - Rob Jubber is a proud father who works in child welfare.

But a visibly successful life wasn't always part of his story.

"There wasn't a single day that went by that I didn't feel that deep-seeded like - castaway, castout - that shame," he says. "Man, like, it was just so horrible."

Rob is recovering from a 14-year long addiction to methamphetamine.

During his struggle, his daughter moved away with her mom.

By the summer of 2012, he was homeless.

He says the only escape from the shame was the drugs that landed there in the first place - until even those weren't enough.

"So not only am I stuck with this gigantic drug habit, but they don't work anymore," he says.

Homelessness or drug addiction are devastating issues for a person to recover from alone.

Combined, recovery can be nearly impossible.

Rob says he stole to feed his habit.

Dealers would exchange meth for bike parts.

And between theft and drug possession, he would often end up behind bars.

"Every time I got arrested, it was a relief," he said, "because I didn't have to struggle, I knew if I was going to jail, I knew I could get three meals a day and I'd have a place to sleep every night."

Rob's story isn't unique.

Police identify methamphetamine as the largest drug-related criminal threat.

And overdose deaths from meth in Oregon grew over 330% in the span of six years.

"That's where I think the focus has to start," says Jason Davis with Lane County Public Health. "People are dying."

Davis says fighting meth is difficult because there's no legal source.

That means there's little data to track.

"It's like cocaine," he said. "We don't know how it's made, we don't know how it's getting here, and we don't know who's trafficking it."

So Public Health is calling for a focus on addiction treatment instead.

But that puts a big burden on local providers.

"They simply don't have the capacity," Davis says. "They simply don't have the providers to see everyone."

Pete Kerns, the former Eugene Police chief who now serves as CEO and president of Serenity Lane, says his treatment center has the capacity to treat more people.

But he admits that an initial waiting period of one to seven days may deter the unhoused.

"They might have been ready on the day they called, but if we couldn't admit them that day and we had to schedule them a day or two later they're just not ready on the day that they're scheduled," he said.

Even after that initial detox, addiction treatment programs require rigorous attendance.

And without stable housing, addiction sufferers may find those appointments impossible to keep up with.

"I think the services that are required probably don't entirely exist right now," Kerns said.

Kerns suggests the Oregon Health Plan should cover more residential treatment to fix this.

But that would mean greater expense - a tough sell to a community already frustrated with homeless crime.

It was through crime that Rob got clean, thanks to a court-sponsored treatment program.

He stresses that empathy for those who are still addicted is critical, still remembering how hard he tried to quit.

Rob says he's living proof investments into people society may see as lost are worth it.

"There's hope," he says. "If I did it man, pretty much anybody can."

Eugene/Springfield Addiction Treatment Providers:

  • Serenity Lane (541-485-1577)
  • Willamette Family (541-762-4300)
  • Chrysalis (White Bird Clinic) (541-683-1641)
  • Lane County Methadone Treatment Program (541-682-4464)
  • Emergence (Eugene: 541-393-0777, Springfield 541-746-4041)
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You can find a list of support group meetings in the area online

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