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Whoville Shutdown Scatters Campers

Photo by Athena Delene | tinyurl.com/athenadelene
Photo by Athena Delene | tinyurl.com/athenadelene

The city of Eugene paid 60 staff members to shut down the Whoville homeless camp on the corner of Broadway and Hilyard streets April 4 — a move that campers and homeless rights advocates say put many of the Whoville residents back on the streets alone.

“They’ve taken old, they’ve taken veterans, they’ve taken everybody who has a problem, said ‘You have to go,’ instead of giving them a place to sleep at night and giving them some sort of peace of mind,” Whoville camper Jacob Baird says.

Whoville camper and organizer Nathan “Red” Showers says the Whoville campers are like a family and many of them relied on the emotional support, on-site warming center and food donations available at the camp.

“It was all donations from churches and organizations that support us. They paid for tons of propane that we went through,” Showers says. “It was beautiful how many people were just out there, ready and willing. We need another chance.” 

A traffic advisory issued by EPD Public Information Director Melinda McLaughlin says quality-of-life crimes and calls for police service have increased around Whoville. Calls about traffic hazards and crashes near the site have increased and nearby businesses have also reported a decrease in business and an increase in anti-social behavior.

“It gets a little sketchy and hairy sometimes,” says Baird, who has been at Whoville since September. “But for the most part it’s a good place. There’s good people there.”

The Egan Warming Center was open for two nights following the closure of Whoville.

“You got all these people that are back on the streets,” Baird says. “So what was that one night or two nights worth, ultimately? Nothing.”

City of Eugene Community Relations Director Jan Bohman says the city sent 60 staff members from Eugene Police Department, Public Works, Facilities, Operations and other departments to clear Whoville because advocates told them 50 people were camping there.

“Staff estimates there were actually approximately 19 people on the site at 9 am this [Friday] morning,” Bohman writes.

Whoville camper Megan Ludwig says she was told she would be able to leave to store some of her belongings, then return to gather the rest.

“When I came back, there were two bulldozers,” Ludwig says. “They were all gone — all my friends, all the people. The cops that I had talked to were gone.”

Ludwig says she was left without clothes, a blanket or a tent. “They told us it’s at the police impound and we can go pick it up eventually. But if you go look at Whoville, there’s Dumpsters full of tarps and bikes. Tell me they put everything in storage — bullshit.”

Ludwig’s boyfriend was one of three arrested Friday at Whoville. He was released from jail on Monday.

“For three days I’ve been alone,” Ludwig says. “They didn’t just take my shit. They took my boyfriend and my sense of security, you know. I’ve been alone out there.”

Community Alliance of Lane County Community Organizer Michael Carrigan says the city wasted a tremendous amount of money shutting down Whoville. “Money that could have been spent building a safe place for people to be, instead of tearing one down,” he says.