'Each one of these cans has the equivalent of 4 shots of hard liquor'

'Each one of these cans has the equivalent of 4 shots of hard liquor' »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. -- Four Eugene convenience stores near downtown recently voluntarily stopped selling inexpensive malt liquor for 90 days. 

They chose to stop selling it to see whether it reduces crime and drunken behavior in the surrounding area. 

Eugene Police Sgt. Terry Fitzpatrick patrols the downtown area.  He sees homeless people purchasing 24 ounce cans containing 12 percent alcohol for $1.49.  He believes those type of products are targeted at homeless alcoholics.

"To put it in perspective each one of these cans has the equivalent of four shots of hard liquor in each one, and they sell them very cheap," Fitzpatrick said. "This type of alcohol is targeted at the homeless alcoholics. This is not something that is advertised on football games."

Fitzpatrick described what he sees as an average day from some transients who are addicted to alcohol.

"A lot of the homeless people that are out here literally from the time they get up in the morning they have what's called a 'wake up' where the night before they'll buy one or two of those cans of beer and they'll keep it with them at night so in the morning when they wake up they'll drink it just to keep the shakes away," he said. "The rest of their day is literally spent in the search of alcohol."

But why doesn't he show more compassion to the people on the streets? 

Fitzpatrick tells me that some of the people on the streets have extensive criminal records. 

"Rape, arson many of these guys are sex offenders," he said. "And unless you know them people make the mistake of thinking of they're just homeless, they're harmless."

Police maintain since the markets have stopped selling high-content alcohol, there are fewer homeless people in the area.  But what about the markets that make money off of the products? 

"One of the markets that is involved in this what they told me was since the ban came in they're losing $800 a day in sales," Fitzpatrick said.

So what's the solution?  Fitzpatrick has seen the despair and feels those who give money to homeless pan handlers are part of the problem.  He suggests donating to an organization that provides housing instead.

"We as a community have to say no, we're going to quit being enablers for this bad behavior which is literally like giving heroin to an addict," Fitzpatrick said.

He believes this could accomplish two things:  no affordable booze may force some homeless people into treatment, and some may just move on.

NEXT: In part three of the series KVAL Downtown Solutions, set to air Wednesday, Nov. 18, KVAL News talks to Sheltercare's Erin Bonner.  She discusses the "housing first" method of helping homeless people get off the streets.  Bonner explains why some people end up on the streets and we talk about the barriers that exist which might keep some men and woman from finding homes.