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Needle clean-up presents glaring issue in Whiteaker Neighborhood

For 13 years, a group of volunteers has cleaned of "hot spots" where a lot of needles are found in the Whiteaker neighborhood. Organizers say that their latest effort was by far the toughest clean up. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - For 13 years, a group of volunteers has cleaned of "hot spots" where a lot of needles are found in the Whiteaker neighborhood. Organizers say that their latest effort was by far the toughest clean up.

Wade Love, who organized this first clean up 13 years ago, says that in the past he has been able to count the actual amount of needles that were picked up.

This year, that changed, and the spike in numbers left him estimating that they collected a couple hundred at least.

"Years past, it was under 50," said Love. "It was really not very many, and this year was a huge spike."

Love has been organizing the clean up in the Whiteaker neighborhood for more than a decade, picking up trash, furniture and syringes that are used for drugs.

"I started counting the little containers and I was like, 'okay, okay, I can kind of do this,'" said Love. "Then I got to the big containers and they were plum full."

Love says the increase in needles found this year by the volunteer group underlines a nationwide problem.

"There is obviously a serious epidemic, we are finding more than we ever have," said Love. "This last one was ridiculous."

Renee Yandel, with the HIV Alliance, says that the increase in needles around the neighborhood surprises her, but motivates her team to help those struggling with addiction.

"After the Whiteaker clean up, that was one of the things that the team talked about," said Yandel. "We know where the hot spots are, we need to revisit those again, and be going as an outreach team to pick up the syringes."

Love says that the drug-use problem might not be easily fixed, but he wants to try and do his part. He says that even though it may be baby steps, it's still making a difference in the Whiteaker neighborhood.

Love says that he wants to organize monthly cleanups in the Whiteaker, and looking ahead he wants to create a larger clean up effort in Downtown Eugene.

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