The city of Bend has identified two possible sites for a managed homeless camp.
One would be located on the east side of Bend, and the other roughly in the southwest part of town. Both received support Wednesday from the Bend City Council as possible homes to some of the homeless population.
The decision comes at a time when the city is investing an unprecedented amount of money in addressing the region’s growing homeless population.
Managed camps, which is where homeless people could legally camp or park an RV and would be facilitated by a homeless service provider, have grown in popularity in cities across the country as a transitional housing option.
The city has already dedicated $1.5 million toward establishing managed camps, and Deschutes County so far has pledged $750,000.
Both options are over an acre and intended to fit roughly 15 to 25 camps each, said Carolyn Eagan, the city’s recovery strategy and impact officer, on Wednesday.
“This is a first run at looking at what is the lowest hanging fruit for land,” Eagan said.
One site is off Ninth Street, near where the road meets SE Glenwood Drive. The city-owned land was slated to become affordable housing a few years ago, but those plans did not materialize in light of land use related issues, like sharing the right of way, Eagan said.
There was also pushback from neighbors about having an affordable housing development on the land at the time.
The other site is owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and sits between Third Street and U.S. Highway 97 near Murphy Road. It’s closest neighbor is Les Schwab Tires.
The two options were chosen after a citywide search for publicly owned land that was an acre to two acres, Eagan said. But after a long search, county land that was available was deemed more appropriate for more permanent housing, Eagan said, and overall there were very few pieces of city property that fit the acreage requirements.
Juniper Ridge, the largest piece of land the city owns in northeast Bend, is also on the table, Eagan said, though more work needs to be done before making a formal proposal. Last year, the city attempted to establish a managed camp on the largely undeveloped land under a COVID-19 emergency order, but withdrew the plans due to timing issues with construction on the site and fears the emergency order wouldn’t still be in place as far out as June 2021.
But in light of the state legislature passing House Bill 2006, the city is allowed to site a managed camp on the site without the help of an emergency order, and the construction of a sewer line that once was raising safety concerns has moved farther west, Eagan said.
The overall vision is for these managed camps to be temporary, with the intent to build more permanent housing units in the future, Eagan said.
But Eagan said she has already received pushback to both locations from neighboring residents and businesses. She said there is no ideal location for a managed camp.
“It’s about really getting to everyone and putting my effort into making sure the broadest number of people understand what the intent is,” Eagan said.
Eagan said the goal is to have at least two managed camps open before the end of the year. The city will continue to ask public agencies to identify any land they may own that could be used for a managed camp in the future.
The goal is not to have enough managed camps to accommodate all of Bend’s homeless population, but rather to have some in each quadrant of the city and continue to invest in other shelters like the Project Turnkey shelter or the navigation center.