My Quick Note this morning is dedicated to a topic impacting many of your businesses and that we are working on extensively right now.
We are acutely aware of the growing number of businesses dealing with criminal activity and unsanctioned camping on or near their property. It is one of our top priorities at the Chamber right now. I spent time Thursday driving around the West Eugene and Whiteaker area to take photos and see for myself the current state of affairs in those parts of the community. It was incredibly disheartening. These businesses and employees need relief, the homeless individuals need a sanctioned, safe place to be, and the criminals need to be held accountable.
We are committed to addressing these issues.
First, after dozens of conversations with elected officials, city staff and nonprofit and business leaders it is clear we have to reframe this issue.
Solving Homelessness by Saving and Increasing Jobs
To accomplish these goals, we strongly believe we need a shift in our way of thinking about and approaching this issue as a community. Historically businesses have been pitted against homeless individuals and advocates, suggesting there are two-sides to these issues and that we are not working towards the same goal of ending homelessness. We believe helping the businesses that are struggling with the impacts of criminal activity and illegal camping is a long-term solution to our current homeless challenge.
The businesses I have spoken to over the past few months are at a true tipping point. They are struggling to keep up with the challenges they are experiencing. They are worried about the safety of their employees; and several are having serious conversations about leaving our community. A rough calculation of the number of jobs represented by the employers I have spoken to is over 500. That means we have 500 community members at risk of losing their jobs- which is a leading cause of homelessness in our community and across the country. If we truly want to make strides in solving our homeless challenge in Eugene, we have to prioritize “turning off the spigot” by saving and growing jobs and keeping people off the streets in the first place.
Addressing the immediate criminal activity impacting businesses today IS a long-term solution to solving homelessness. It must be prioritized.
We are working on a detailed action plan for how to accomplish these goals above, but for now I wanted to share some immediate actions that we are taking or are aware of happening:
While COVID has added a layer of complexity to an already overwhelming situation, we know there are things that can still be done now. We have a lot more to come, and I plan to keep providing progress updates along the way.