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Published on Thursday December 15, 2011 - 1:42 PM
 
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EUGENE, Oregon - Occupy Eugene will be allowed a few more weeks in a downtown camp as the city tries to help the homeless people who now make up much of the encampment.

The protest that began in October in the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement had faced a Thursday deadline for moving from Washington-Jefferson Park. But the city council voted Wednesday to extend the deadline to Jan. 11 so the people can prepare for disbanding and homeless campers can be guided to social service providers.

Group leaders wanted an extended or permanent stay, but most members of a council that was otherwise divided about the encampment rejected that idea.

"My feeling about permanent camps is that they don't work," said council member Alan Zelenka. "The dysfunctional people end up taking over, and the problems are hard to deal with."

In a series of close votes, the council decided to spend up to $300,000 to pay for homeless initiatives and law enforcement costs related to the camp, create a task force with Occupy participants to work on issues related to homelessness, expand a car camping law to allow tent camping, and create an overnight shelter for homeless people with behavioral issues or addictions.

Even with the new deadline, Occupy organizer John Monroe said, some people probably will refuse to leave, which could lead to citations and arrests.

"The official stance of Occupy Eugene is that we want to hold Washington-Jefferson Park until a better solution is found," he said.

Wednesday's vote was the third time since Oct. 24 that the council has voted to exempt the group from the city's ban on overnight park camping. The camp moved several times before settling in its current location Nov. 5.

Council member George Poling said his constituents want the encampment to end. He and other opponents of the steps approved Wednesday said they would come at the expense of parks maintenance, pothole repairs and gang prevention efforts.

"It's time that we actually stepped up and did what we have to do to reclaim that park, reclaim the city and reclaim what we, as a council, should be doing," he said.