The Occupy movement began on September 17, 2011, with a protest in Zuccotti Park, New York. Initiated by Adbusters, an anti-consumerist magazine from Canada known for their spoofs of popular advertisements, the movement used “We are the 99%” as their slogan to highlight the economic disparity between the wealthiest individuals, the 1%, and everyone else. While the protest at Zuccotti Park took aim at Wall Street, protests all over the world began to emerge, each grounding itself in specific localities and addressing not just Wall Street but local issues.
Occupy Eugene began with a march on October 15, 2011. Taking place at Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza, it began with a similar emphasis on Wall Street and economic corruption. Eugene’s protest ended up at the Washington/Jefferson bridge area, forming a camp-out for individuals to network and speak out.
A crucial part of the Eugene camp-out began to emerge: a medical clinic that treated conditions of people hurt by the economic recession and lacking in health insurance and treatment options. As Occupy Eugene began to address local homelessness issues, however, the clinic’s importance took on a whole new dimension.
Sue Sierralupe, a sustainable landscape educator and medical herbalist from Eugene, is one of the organizers of Occupy Eugene’s Medical Clinic. Sierralupe explains the transition of the clinic:
“When the homeless came to join our camp-out, we had a complete change of focus. We originally just had one doctor. With new conditions and a new set of people to treat, we knew we needed to expand.”
The Eugene Police Department shut down the Occupy Eugene camp-out at Washington/Jefferson in December of 2011, after a protestor was found attacked, being beaten and choked and having suffered multiple facial fractures. Sierralupe said that, once the shut down happened, the clinic knew its work had just begun.
“We realized that all the homeless would have nowhere to go. They would try to survive under bridges until they died.”
Sierralupe and other organizers for the clinic re-grouped in February of this year to re-open their clinic.
“We re-grouped as a triage clinic. We have 3 professional doctors, as well as nurses, a pharmacist, and a pediatrist. We also have a dental hygienist.”
Everything used by the Eugene clinic is donated.
“It’s all 100% donations,” Sierralupe says.
“Volunteers buy bandaids or donate socks.”
Socks are especially important for the homeless, Sierralupe explains. Many individuals that come to the clinic have just one pair of socks and they are usually worn out and wet from all the rain.
“It’s horrifying and sad, the condition of some of these peoples’ feet.”
The medical clinic also works with international medical teams and St. Vincent de Paul to hold dental clinics. Four times a year they do free extractions, juggling severity of need with the amount of volunteers in order to determine who to help.
“The dental clinics take well over 100 hours of volunteer work to put together.”
The clinic takes place every Sunday, from 1-5 pm at the downtown parks on 8th, where the Saturday Market is held. Everyone is welcome, Sierralupe stresses.
“We serve not just the homeless but low-income families, children—anyone who walks through the door. This is free preventative care in the park for our city.”
One of the most significantly common problems that the clinic has encountered is hepatitis, both B and C.
“Hepatitis is a huge killer,” Sierralupe explains.
“We don’t do tests but we can get prescriptions filled for free. We also have free herbal supplements. Milk thistle is a a wonderfully preventative measure that is holistic.”
Everyone working at the clinic is either a volunteer, a retired professional, or a current professional that is already working full-time but wants to give to the community.
Looking to the future, the clinic has plans in the works for a mobile clinic as well. A volunteer says,
“We are working on a mobile clinic with a wheelchair lift, to go around the county and do what we do here, but everywhere we can. We are waiting on a grant from a community foundation in Oregon.”
For the time being, though, Sierralupe and her associates have their hands full, serving hundreds of people that walk through their doors and into their makeshift tent.
“Our endeavor is to prove a positive role model for holistic care, especially with all these debates about single payer health systems and whether they work. It does work and it is working right now. We are doing what everyone says cannot be done and we are doing it on a dime.”
For Sierralupe, this is not just healthcare, it is the right thing to do.
“It’s not our job to judge, it’s our job to heal. Isolation drives so many people in our community to live unhealthy lives. And sometimes the most basic, human, and effective healthcare is love. Big hugs do wonders here.”
If you are interested in donating to the clinic, Sierralupe says that the items they most need are socks, vitamins, and children’s items. For more information about the clinic and Occupy Eugene, go to http://occupyeugenemedia.org/. For more information about Sue Sierralupe, visit her blog at http://www.herbalistmanifesto.com/herbs/. You can visit at the clinic every Sunday from 1-5 pm at the parks on 8th between Willamette Street and Pearl Street.