EUGENE, Oregon — Over the weekend, homeless campers pitched a dozen or so tents at an undeveloped city park in south Eugene after being moved by local officials at least three times before.
Organizers chose that spot in part to protest city and county laws that prohibit overnight sleeping on public land, camp resident and advocate Laura Maricle told The Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/1KphwI7 ).
"I picked this spot on purpose because I wanted to be in an area of Eugene where people had maybe heard about homeless camps, but had not seen or witnessed one," she said.
Maricle, 45, said she has a master's degree in nonprofit organization management but wants to make a stand with her homeless friends.
The campers are living on a 1.3 acre field of dry weeds along Hilyard Street that's considered park land by the city. Homeless camps have popped up around the region over the last few years, but the tents may be a first for this part of Eugene.
"It's an area of town where we think we can generate some sympathy," said Maricle.
The campers are on city park land, said Eugene Police Lt. Doug Mozan, and people are not allowed there between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
He said officers are trying to persuade the campers to move willingly before issuing fines and making arrests.
"We are not rash to go to enforcement," Mozan said. "We have been very, very effective with diplomacy so far."
Mozan said he hopes some of the Hilyard Street campers will seek shelter at some of the city's authorized homeless camps.
The camp moved from city and county land in north Eugene, where they spent 10 days before being forced out by police. It was the fourth time in the past few months that the group had to move or be cited for violating local ordinances, and Maricle said the group is already scouting for a new location.
"It's just moving us from spot to spot," Maricle said. "Moving us every 24 hours to 10 days isn't solving much."
The camp has a dozen or so tents, two portable canopies for shade and a place for its residents to eat. There are coolers with food, drinks and water, as well as a two-burner propane stove.
Near the camp is a portable toilet paid for by the nonprofit Nightingale Health Sanctuary. Garbage is taken away daily by a supporter.
"It just brings the issue of homelessness to south Eugene in a very visceral way," said Heather Sielicki, chairwoman of the area's neighborhood group, Southeast Neighbors.
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com