On the recent sweep of Trainsong camp and criminalization of homelessness

On Monday, the City of Eugene evicted numerous unhoused people camping at the long-standing Trainsong community camp. The sweep carried out by the city was done on behalf of Portland and Western Railroad, who owns the railroad. Before the city gave notice, activists counted over 100 camp sites.

In addition to being forced to move, multiple unhoused people were levied $790 fines that they are unable to pay.

I spoke to Ethan Klein, who is an organizer with Eugene DSA and was present helping on the day of the sweep. Klein arrived at 8:15 AM and says that some were prepared for the sweep, but others were not as cognizant that it was going to happen. He describes the encampment as being as far away from the railroad while still being on flat land. Klein said from what he saw the encampment wasn't inhibiting work in the area.

Unhoused people at a camp on 5th Avenue and Almaden/Filmore St. were fearing there would be a sweep of their camp after receiving a cleanup notice, but so far that has been diverted.

These actions come shortly after the City announced new criteria for camping. Advocates for the unhoused say the clarity is appreciated of where people are not allowed to camp, but that the City doesn't provide an adequate list of where people can camp. Additionally they say these new rules open it up for more complaints from private property owners and gives them the power to force sweeps just for the feeling "negatively affected".

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This growing coalition of advocates for the unhoused—includes The Way Home, Black Thistle Street Aid, Community Outreach Through Radical Empowerment (CORE), Stop Deaths On The Streets, Stop the Sweeps Eugene, Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC), Food Not Bombs Eugene, Springfield-Eugene Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)—and they are calling for the City of Eugene to:

  • Stop the sweeps and follow CDC, OHA, and Lane County Public Health guidelines.

  • Immediately identify and establish emergency locations where unhoused residents can safely and legally shelter in place in their vehicles and tents.

  • Provide basic sanitation services to camps.

In addition the groups are calling for systemic changes and investments, including ceasing citations for violations for “quality of life” laws that target unhoused people, created more transparency in the cities resources and spending, and invest in resources to help create long-term access to stable and affordable housing for all.

Beyond evictions and fines the City is treating the unhoused to jail time. Earlier this week the Eric Jackson, a prominent voice among the unhoused, was sent to jail for camping on private property.