Juniper Ridge Homeless (copy)

Jackie Capasso walks around one of her neighbors’ campsites out on Juniper Ridge on Feb. 6, 2020.

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.

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(4) comments

kindergentlerbend

In his recent Blake v. Grants Pass ruling (that constitutionally bans criminalizing the unhoused) U.S. District Judge Mark Clarke recommends programs such as Medford’s Hope Village, which “now sits on property owned by the City of Medford. Residents of Hope Village are required to attend case management meetings, counseling sessions, and work on permanent ways to stay off of the streets . . . average stay at Hope Village is around four months, and the program has a 62 percent success rate.” From the Medford Mail Tribune (Aug. 4, 2019): “Hope Village in Oregon faced some pushback in its early stages a few years ago. Some people feared that it would increase crime and generate litter. But resident Buckshot Cunningham says those fears proved to be wrong. ‘Look at this place,’ he says, motioning to the neat row of cottages. ‘It’s clean; it’s beautiful. And it stays that way seven days a week, all year round. It’s pretty simple.'” I am very proud of the Bend City Council for taking steps (halting as they may be) away from persecuting unhoused individuals and working toward a solution.

Gary Mendoza

As the City Council moves forward with its plans to establish homeless camps, it should consider a series of course corrections.

The City Council is focused on reducing hardship for the homeless; there seems to be much less focus on reducing their number.

Bend should track and publicly report the number of people on the street. One or more people in Bend government should be personally accountable to see that number steadily goes down.

We should prioritize those homeless whom we focus on helping. I’d start with Veterans (they’ve earned it), women who have been chased out of their home by abusive men (particularly those with children) and people prepared to do the hard work to stay off the street.

It sounds like the camps would provide 50 spots, at most. Given the scale of a growling problem, that seems too few.

The camps should be much further removed from all Bend neighborhoods. I’d suggest at least five miles.

They should be spartan (water, toilet facilities, garbage pickup), and there should be a strict time limit on how long people can stay at the camps. While people could move from one camp to another, they should be responsible for taking their property with them.

While requiring homeless campers to regularly relocate will be an inconvenience for people living at the camps, Portland, SF, Seattle, LA, NYC, DC, etc. have shown that making it easier to live on the streets results in more homeless.

Bend residents are increasingly alarmed by the growing homeless squalor and the growing (and unsustainable) strain on the City’s resources.

Their interests need to be much better served.

kindergentlerbend

I really hope and trust that this latest initiative from the City of Bend is not just another fishing expedition designed to stir up emotions and fail. I understand that we in Bend will have $7 million to address this expanding humanitarian crisis in our midst. Let’s use it wisely--and expeditiously. Even if these two facilities are operational by the winter, they--plus the three low barrier shelters--will only provide safety and winter refuge for roughly 10% of our unhoused neighbors. City Hall-originated PR campaigns have historically been tone deaf; let’s propel this one with the message that we are saving lives and populate it with the voices of inspiring community leaders.

DAS1958

The problem with established communities in this area is they don’t want ‘those people’ anywhere near them. Well, you reap what your sow. By pushing back against affordable housing this neighborhood is now looking at having a managed homeless community next door. So, which choice is better? Providing safe housing for those who are ‘less’ than these fine upstanding bigots or a homeless camp? SMH at the sense of entitlement going on here.

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