In 2008, Eugene’s city council approved a nasty piece of business. They called it the Public Safety Zone. This was a marked territory of Eugene, Oregon’s downtown landscape that served as an exclusion zone for designated citizens. Police officers were given the option to 86 any man, woman or child from this area without having the burden of just cause. This ruling was designed specifically to push the homeless out of our city.
This year, the much protested ruling is up for review. Although city council did not allow the public that funds this rule to vote on its approval, we were allowed to speak on the issue before it was reconsidered.
Occupy Eugene asked me to speak in front of the council on behalf of our medical committee. Occupy has been working to bring democracy back to America. This exclusion zone represents discrimination against the poor. I admit that I also saw this as an excellent time to brag about the wonderful work my fellow medical volunteers have accomplished thus far. I beg your indulgence.
February 13th, 2012
Good evening Mayor Piercy and members of the Eugene City Council. My name is Sue Sierralupe. I have been a citizen of this fair city for 30 years and I am an organizer of Occupy’s free medical clinic. For the past few Sundays, our team of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals have been offering medical service to any one who needs our help. Our volunteers originally assembled to support the Occupy Movement.
No one understands how devastated our economy is more than heath care professionals. We have seen families agonize over decisions between paying for overpriced medical procedures and keeping their homes. We have watched patients die because they waited to the last moment to seek medical care they knew they couldn’t afford.
Since we first set up our little first aid tent in the Parks Block back in October, the numbers of patients that have wandered in for care has grown exponentially. Back in October, 1 or 2 medical volunteers on staff at one time was more than enough to serve the community. When we reopened Occupy Medical last Sunday at the steps of the Federal Building, we brought a staff of 12. We were busy. Most of the population that we serve come to us because they have little or no health insurance. They are the homeless, the underemployed or just the unlucky.
Occupy Medical is growing. This last Sunday, we were joined by Food not Bombs. Next Sunday, LCC’s nursing students have volunteered to help our cause. In our spare time, our team is organizing a street outreach program in which we will traveling to homeless camps and under bridges to bring medical care directly to the people who so desperately need it. Eugene is community of good-hearted, hard working people who want to make a difference. In another month or 2, we will have out grown the floor space that the Federal building has to offer. We will need to move to the Park Blocks which is inside the Exclusion zone. This means that we will no longer be able to help the patients that have been singled out to leave our downtown area.
No civilization can survive without health care. We all know that the numbers of the poor and the homeless are growing. If we don’t take care of their needs, we leave ourselves open to a medical disaster of epidemic proportions.
Exclusion zones are designed to shield the public from toxic hazards. Examples of exclusion zone include Chernobyl and Coffin Bay. Treating our homeless population as a visual hazard that must be shielded from the eyes of middle class shoppers is shameful … and dangerous. Hiding the suffering of our neighbors has only served to make our problems worse. Please fix this error.