A "rest area" provides a safe place to sleep for the unhoused with less commitment than a "transitional village" like Eugene's Opportunity Village. Its a similar concept to a highway rest area, but instead services those with no place else to go in urban areas. The camps include two distinct populations: hosts and overnighters. Hosts can stay at the site regularly and enforce a basic set of community agreements. Overnighters are a more transient population that can check-in with a host each night for a safe place to sleep. The idea is to serve more sectors of the unhoused population.
This concept originated with Portland's Right 2 Dream Too, which formed just a few blocks from the local Occupy camp in 2011. The informal community has formed an excellent manual for how to operate this kind of service. Read their operating manual here.
|Right 2 Dream Too; Photo From Street Roots|
In October 2013, the City of Eugene passed a "rest area" ordinance allowing up to 15 people to camp on city approved sites. The first site opened just down the street from Opportunity Village in late December, known as the Eugene Safe Spot, which features tent platforms and Conestoga huts.
|Eugene Safe Spot; Photo from Register Gaurd|
An "sanctuary camp" known as Whoville prompted the passage of this ordinance by city council. The tent city has been forced to migrate to several different locations, but has since found sanctuary for four months on a piece of left-over public land at an intersection near downtown. The site has reached physical capacity with 40-50 people camping there along with gathering and cooking spaces. Port-a-pots, hand washing stations, and trash collection is funded by a local non-profit known as the Nightingale Collective. The community has vowed to stick together and move to a different site if the city follows through with eviction.
Interestingly, this site adjacent to the University of Oregon was identified by the city council as one of the potential sites for a rest area, but it was not one of the first two sites approved for the initial pilot project. As a result the city has pursued eviction of Whoville, but in a slow and careful manner. Activists have threatened a law suit if the city does not provide a legal alternative based on the grounds of Jones v. City of Los Angeles, which prohibited the city from punishing "involuntary sitting, lying, or sleeping" that is a consequence of being "human and homeless without shelter." A symbolic step was taken last week when the city removed the "no camping" sign and replaced it with a "no trespassing" sign, justifying arrest instead of citation. The sign was "misplaced" the following day. A few days later, a fence was raised around the site with a couple gaps so that residents could still come and go.
|Fence going up at Whoville|