Homeless in Need of New Shelter Options

“When our homes are under attack, what do we do?  Stand up and fight back!” -- this was the call and response of a group of downtown Roseburg’s homeless and their supporters on the evening of Saturday, April 14, as they marched from Eagles Park on the corner of Jackson and Lane to the Deer Creek Bridge near the conjunction of Diamond Lake Boulevard and Stephens Street. 

The march was a reaction to police attempts to remove residences under the bridge.  Tuesday, April 10, the homeless awoke at 1:30 a.m. to the flashlights of police officers who gave citations for illegal camping with bail set at $1500, according to Sgt. Dunbar of the Roseburg City Police Department.The march and the event that precipitated it are real world examples of the issues studied in UCC sociology classes every day. 

Dancer Davis, who organized the protest, is a local Occupy member who helps feed the homeless every week.  Davis pointed out the misconception that the homeless are lazy, “When I show up to help feed the homeless, I never have to do the unloading.  These people are willing to work; they just want to be treated with dignity.”

Darek Ball, also an Occupy member, pointed out the absurdity of writing citations to people who can’t afford a meal, much less a place to live.  “These people won’t be able to pay these tickets, and when they don’t they will have warrants issued.  They are making criminals out of people who just don’t have a place to live.” 

Jamie Fugate, who showed up to support the homeless, told the story of her brother who was diagnosed with cancer and was unable to work; “He might have ended up living under a bridge, but he had family to take him.  A lot of these people don’t have family.”

Fugate went on to suggest that if the city doesn’t want the homeless sleeping under bridges they should give them a place to stay.  “There’s a vacant hospital building on Harvard that could be turned into a place where the homeless could stay.”

This idea was independently stated by Richard Mazelin, a former U.S. Marine who was among those cited. 

Another of the people cited, Dejannette Hoag stated what brought the police to the bridge: “They said they heard there was a disturbance.  But everyone was asleep, there was no disturbance.” 

Davis added, “These people weren’t bothering anybody, you would never know anybody was living under there unless you went crawling around down there.”

Rita Raines another of the protestors who had been cited, pointed out that there is a women shelter where she might be able to get a bed.  However, she and her boyfriend, Cooper Meyers, would not be able to stay there together.  Raines and Meyers made it clear that living under the bridge with the comfort of a loved one is preferable to living in a shelter without.

The resolve of the homeless to hold on to what little they have was reflected in one of their chants, “Homelessness is not a crime, we’ll fight back every time.”   

The Mainstream is a student publication of Umpqua Community College.