Neighborhood Issue Story – Marissa Tomko

Downtown Eugene is as eclectic as it gets, just ask Jessica Smith.

“Most everybody’s friendly, and you also get a lot of people from, like, all walks of life, so that’s really neat too,” said Smith, a barista at Eugene Public Library’s Novella Café.

Walking outside the doors of the cafe, near the corner of 10th Avenue and Olive Street, it’s easy to get a sense of what Smith means. In front of the library building, a scruffy looking golden haired dog is at eye level with an equally scruffy looking man in a ball cap. The man looks up with a smile and begins a cheerful conversation with a random passerby.

Such a positive interaction between strangers might lead one to believe that downtown is always a welcoming place to spend time without having to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. However, this is not always the case. People who live, work, or spend leisure time in the area often feel both of these things. It’s those uncomfortable or unsafe experiences that detract from a positive downtown experience.

“The other day I was walking to the car with my friend after dinner, and this woman asked me if I had any spare change because her son had recently been injured, and she needed the money,” University of Oregon student Sonja Shayegh said. “I told her that I didn’t and that I was sorry, and she just like, lashed out. She was like, ‘God forbid anything ever happen to your family.’ It was shocking.”

Shayegh does not live downtown and chooses not to frequent it due to the unsafe feeling she gets from incidents like this, and she’s not alone.

U.S. Bank teller Maureen (last name omitted upon request) believes that downtown is more unsafe than other parts of Eugene because of loiterers and the homeless population. When asked what is being done to combat the issue of safety in the neighborhood, she mentions the Red Hats, more formally known as Downtown Guides of Eugene. Their presence plays an integral role in maintaining a safe downtown atmosphere by responding to the calls of downtown goers who need assistance with anything from directions to warding off loiters.

The Red Hats patrol a ten block area, and are distinguished by their attire—red hats. Like those who spend leisure time downtown, the Red Hats are who the bank and other businesses call when there is a persistent loiterer or a bothersome customer. Though they are not a police force, they are effective in helping to keep safety a priority, according to Maureen.

In addition to the Red Hats, local police are prevalent in the downtown Eugene neighborhood. It is common to see them in pairs, riding bikes down the street, or patrolling around Eugene Station, the central bus stop downtown. They have proven to be vital to the creation of a favorable atmosphere in the neighborhood.

“Seeing a bike cop ride by always puts me at ease around here,” Shayegh said. “It’s nice to know they’re out there.”

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5 Responses to Neighborhood Issue Story – Marissa Tomko

  1. mdoughe3 says:

    I like your lead. It is short and to the point.

  2. williamjt says:

    Pretty engaging story. The counter-play of the opening with downtown as a nice place with the darker, less pleasant rest of the story works well.

  3. vantulde says:

    I really like how you display the scene in your story. You make good use of descriptive adjectives that draw readers into your story. You also do an effective job of expressing the emotion that your subjects felt. It’s easy to empathize with the fear that Sonja Shayegh felt when she was confronted by a stranger.

    I would suggest that you could reformat your paragraphs more efficiently. At one point, you use the word “however” to convey a new thought in the same paragraph. This takes away from the focus on what you previously said. Instead, this thought should be in a new paragraph of its own.

    In addition, you omitted the last name of the U.S. Bank teller Maureen. Although that is acceptable for this assignment, it will be more difficult to do that in the future. Though, I’m sure you already know this.

    – Steven Vantulden

  4. julianm92 says:

    I enjoyed the story. I like how you created a positive image of downtown, then switched it up. It made me want to continue reading.

    Good job!

  5. jhaworth19 says:

    I like that the lead is short and punchy but I feel like you’re going to go into a story about what this Jessica person thinks of Eugene, but the way it’s written it could work, it’s just very quick into the quote with no sense of what will be contained within the rest of the article though personally I don’t care about that because I like the way you set up the story even though it’s not in the average reporting format.

    The paragraphs are very well planned out individually, but could be organized better. And you got useful quotes that back you up which is always nice. Try not to use sources unless they give you a last name, but I’m sure you already know that.

    And I’m being a bit nit picky here, but I think that the central focus gets a little lost because you discuss so many things. I understand that safety is the issue being discussed, but for all the nice language and punchy paragraphs, I feel like it’s a little wishy-washy and by this I mean that a good chunk of your story is taken by talking about the Red Hats, if they are so important and integral to your story you should mention it earlier.

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