The city of Bend is seeking public feedback on proposed development code changes that would allow different kinds of homeless shelters throughout Bend.
The proposed changes would allow several different kinds of homeless shelter models in every zone of the city except for areas zoned for heavy industrial use, such as junkyards. Currently, shelters are only permitted in commercially zoned areas, said Susanna Julber, a senior project and policy analyst with the city.
Different shelter models include group shelters, such as the one run by Shepherd’s House Ministries off Second Street; multiroom shelters, which have individual rooms like a motel or apartment building; and outdoor shelters, which are also referred to as managed camps and would be made up of individual permanent or mobile shelters such as tiny homes or tents.
The proposed code changes would also introduce something called a hardship shelter, which currently is not permitted. The proposed rules would permit someone to allow a family member or friend to live on her or his property in an RV as long as proper sanitation was provided. The hardship shelter is intended for people who are in between permanent housing situations.
The goal of the proposed changes is to expand the number of shelter options that can be permitted throughout the city in an attempt to address the growing number of people who have no housing in Bend, said city Councilor Megan Perkins.
Pandemic and wildfire-related emergency orders from the state allowed some of these shelter models, Perkins said, but the city needs long-term code changes to have options for shelters wherever they are needed.
“This is a really exciting and important thing for our community,” Perkins said.
The proposed code changes are a product of months of work from a group called the Sounding Board to House our Neighbors, which was appointed by City Manager Eric King to develop recommendations on what size and type of shelters should be allowed where.
The sounding board, which first met in April of this year, is made up of social service providers, housing advocates and designers, and representatives from several city committees, Julber said.
The sounding board recommends putting a cap on the number of people or units in a shelter, depending on the size or square footage of the space, Julber said. For example, an outdoor shelter on a 10,000-square-foot lot could have a maximum of 10 sites or units, or a 1-acre site could have 43 units or spaces.
For a multiroom shelter, the cap would be 43 rooms per acre in the standard residential zone.
Julber said the sounding board is recommending maximums in part because it would help give neighbors assurance about what to expect for a proposed development.
The maximums are also realistic for development, Julber said.
“The sounding board’s feeling, too, was that those max numbers were not going to be hit here because the land cost here is so high, and we have land supply issues,” Julber said.
Residents are now being asked to give feedback about the proposed changes through Nov. 1 via a survey on the city’s website. The feedback will be used to refine recommendations before the topic is presented at a Planning Commission work session meeting in January.