As Eugene city leaders floundered last week in relocating the former residents of the Whoville homeless camp, an anonymous benefactor took up the issue, offering a $400,000 donation to establish a sanctuary on private property.
The pledge came as a direct response to, among general grievances, the unyielding position of City Manager Jon Ruiz and others willing to leave the destitute in limbo. “I wanted to step up,” the donor tells EW, “because I saw the city making an attempt to push these people out. They’re citizens, not strangers.”
A Eugene native with capital to spare from the success of a local family business, the donor says the wealth was a matter of pure chance, adding that a privileged position in society obligates one to prevent a human rights catastrophe when no one else will.
For the donation to be seen through, the money has to be channeled properly through the fiscal sponsorship of a nonprofit organization. This would be accomplished through an existing entity with 501(c)(3) status, such as Opportunity Village Eugene or Community Alliance of Lane County. An alternative could be for SLEEPS (Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep) or the Nightingale Public Advocacy Collective to attain such status — the latter is already pending.
It’s now up to Mary Broadhurst, an attorney and advocate for the unhoused, and others representing the advocacy group Homeless Health Sanctuary, to coordinate sponsorship and fulfill the multiple stipulations attached to this unforeseen act of philanthropy.
“We’re looking to buy private property — a single site for something that goes beyond a 30-person rest stop,” Broadhurst says. “Initially, it would be tents on platforms, but it would transition into micro-housing.”
Semi-permanent occupants would be expected to share the space with those seeking single use overnight stays. The site would also include a health stop, where twice a week residents and passers-through could be evaluated, presumably by Occupy Medical or like volunteers. An information station would be developed to point the weary toward free meals and other community resources. The donor put a specific focus on the site needing to be self-sustaining beyond land purchase and startup costs.
The donor remains anonymous to keep the focus on the issue not the donor, and to avoid criticism from a business community where some might shame the donation: “Developers don’t want the parents of university students to see all these homeless people. It decreases the property value. They have a lot to gain from sweeping them under the rug.”