There are more than 100 homeless people without shelter in the Roseburg area, according to the Roseburg Homeless Population Study commissioned by the City of Roseburg. Many of them camp at night, some under bridges and others inside tents.
Some community members object to the campers, saying they create a nuisance and leave behind garbage that’s unsightly, bad for the environment and — in the case of discarded drug paraphernalia — unsafe.
The question is, however, if they’re moved out, where are the homeless to go?
Homelessness in Roseburg has been a noticeable issue for years. For two local business owners, it’s become a fact of life.
Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice has an idea about that. He’s proposed the community create a campsite at which the homeless could find shelter.
The site he’s suggesting is on property across from Phoenix School. There’s a bus stop across the street, a convenience store two blocks down, and no immediate neighbors.
The property is available, as is additional land that would create a buffer between the camp and other properties, Boice said.
While he believes the camp needs to be within city limits so it’s close to services, the location creates a complication in that the city government would have to agree to take on the project.
Some tent campers congregated along the river behind Millsite Park in what was known as Camp Freedom until community members began to clean up and reclaim the area, and the county sold the property. Some still camp on the hill behind the Roseburg Valley Mall and others in the woods not far from the Douglas County landfill.
Although they can’t camp without permission on private property without running afoul of trespassing laws, government officials can no longer criminalize campers purely for sleeping outdoors on public property due to a recent federal court ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling said campers can’t be cited when there are not sufficient unrestricted shelter beds available. The bulk of Roseburg’s available shelter beds don’t qualify as unrestricted under the ruling because they require the appearance of sobriety and attendance at religious services.
“I think most of us at least in leadership positions in the community have come to realize that it’s a very difficult problem and probably doesn’t have any single solution, but one of the things we have to do in order to be able to enforce violations is to provide them a place to be,” Boice said.
On a clear morning in late May, the sun was beginning to evaporate dew on the baseball fields at Gaddis Park in Roseburg — an area where unshe…
Boice convinced i.e. Engineering to volunteer its services creating a site plan. The plan shows several three-sided shelters like baseball dugouts with metal roofs, concrete floors and low voltage electrical outlets. It also included picnic tables, sharps containers for drug needles, lockers and a 24-hour restroom with showers. And there’s a big fence that would prevent it from becoming an eyesore.
The camp could provide a place to stay for between 70 and 100 people, Boice said.
“I get mixed reviews,” Boice said. “Some people say it’s not going to work. Some people say it’s not the right location. Some people say, ‘Hey, it’s a great idea.’”
Boice said he envisions the camp being unstaffed, and some people have complained that will mean people will use drugs and assault each other there. But Boice said that’s stuff that’s already happening where people are camping now.
“Yeah they’re going to do those things in there, but we’re going to be able to immediately access it with law enforcement if they’re doing it there rather than someplace down in a brush pile along the river,” he said.