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Homeless camp established near I-5

EUGENE — Homeless people have set up a new encampment at a prominent spot in northeast Eugene, right next to Interstate 5 — and have been told by the state that they must leave by June 26.

The camp is off north Game Farm Road, along the west side of I-5, in a right of way owned by the state Department of Transportation. A group calling itself the Ninth Ward — consisting of about a dozen people and six dogs — moved to the site on Friday and began pitching tents.

A Transportation Department official delivered a notice on Tuesday requiring that the campers leave within 10 days.

State law enables the department to confiscate any property left at the site after 10 days. Any property recovered from the campsite would be kept at a maintenance facility for 30 days or until the owner claims it, spokesman Rick Little said. Afterward, the items would be taken to a landfill, he said.

Mike Canway, a member of the camp, said the state's deadline is generous.

"It's really nice of them to do that," Canway said.

The camp is one of an unknown number of temporary unauthorized tent sites on public or private property set up by the homeless in the Eugene-Springfield area.

There are also a number of permanent, authorized camp sites on public and private property in the metro area.

One reason the Ninth Ward moved to the location was to clean away trash left there by other homeless occupants, Canway said. Trash left by campers is a major reason the city clamps down on unpermitted homeless camps, he said.

"You're going to spend taxpayer dollars on cleaning this place up and then smack us in the mouth for it?" he asked rhetorically.

More than a dozen tents lined the narrow strip of property between a cyclone fence and the freeway on Wednesday.

The camp site features a small kitchen under a canopy as well as a shower tent and portable toilet.

A few makeshift signs hang above the entrance to the kitchen. Slogans on the signs include "Legalize survival," ''Sleep is a basic right," and "Occupy your universal right to survive."

Members of the camp, such as Richard Golden, said they hope to shine a more favorable light on campers than in the past.

"Maybe (people in this city) will say, 'Hey, these guys want to be part of the community,'?" Golden said.

Members of the camp are not sure where they will go after the deadline to leave the site passes, Conway said.

"Stay tuned."