Deschutes County commissioners withdrew support for a designated camping area for people experiencing homelessness Wednesday after giving preliminary approval Feb. 27.
In a 2-1 vote Wednesday morning, Commissioners Tony DeBone and Patti Adair voted against continuing along with a plan initially proposed by the city of Bend.
The city and the county both offered support for the 1.6-acre designated camping area concept last week. It was set to be located on former Oregon Department of Transportation land, which the city recently acquired, near U.S. Highway 97 and Murphy Road.
With the preliminary plan, the county was expected to allocate funds to the city to operate the camp, because the city provided the land, and hire a service provider to manage the camp.
But the two commissioners backpedaled.
“That location is just not optimal,” DeBone told The Bulletin on Wednesday.
The parcel of land isn’t ideal because of its proximity to businesses and residences, DeBone said. It’s just kind of awkward, he said.
“I want to be a partner with the city of Bend, but the way that happened...,” he said.
Wednesday’s vote follows precedent set forth by previous proposals for managed camps in Bend. The most recent before this year’s proposal was in August of 2021, but public outrage was quick to halt any possibility of opening a managed camp in Bend.
In a letter addressed to Mayor Melanie Kebler and the Bend City Council, Adair and DeBone explained their vote. They cited opposition from the community and surrounding neighbors, an inadequate amount of funds to support the designated camping area and proximity to nearby homeless encampments near China Hat Road in southeast Bend.
In response, Kebler lambasted the county during a press conference Wednesday for the decision.
“The county abandoned this pilot project before it even began and has provided no alternate sites or concrete options for the short-term solutions that we know we need right now. This is incredibly disappointing,” Kebler said.
People who are living unsheltered are going to suffer because of this decision, Kebler said. She urged the commissioners to reconsider their decision, and pleaded with the county to do its part as the public health and service provider for the region.
“Homelessness affects all of us. The status quo is unacceptable, and our community deserves more than broken promises,” Kebler said.
The city was expected to remove homeless camps on Hunnell Road in March, but it postponed once the commissioners gave preliminary support for the designated camping area. A sweep on Hunnell Road wouldn’t take place until the camping area opened several months later, Bend City Manager Eric King said previously.
“We are not going to be able to open a supported campsite on our own,” Kebler said.
The future of the encampment sweep on Hunnell Road is unclear, she said.
Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang told The Bulletin he was left wondering what will happen to those living unsheltered on Hunnell Road in the wake of his fellow commissioners’ decision.
“A managed camp is the farthest thing from an unauthorized, unplanned, unserviced, undeveloped homeless facility, but we may never have a chance to demonstrate to people what a managed camp is in the city of Bend,” Chang said.
Chang said he now worries about the working relationship between the city and the county.
“I believe that any hope of salvaging this relationship and moving something that actually helps to solve problems depends a lot on my fellow commissioners,” Chang said.
County staff came to the commissioners’ Wednesday meeting prepared with detailed plans for steps toward getting the designated camping area up and running, Chang said.
“I don’t think I was the only person in the room completely caught by surprise by what happened today,” he said.
There is a large flat gravel pit with long entrance just a touch south on 41 near the Ranger Station off Century. This where the Catch & Release trail traverses near Lava Falls (non-river side).
The entrance area also has a large flat expanse if help organizations want to present vans / food / supplies before going into the gated area which is the gravel pit.
This area is not far from Century Drive and presents a large amount of flat land. There are currently gravel piles there which could probably be flattened into a very acceptable option.
Currently there are people who seasonally have RVs / Campers further South on 41 already. Why not provide a larger option closer to town.
Rocks align the access road and it is probably rock fenced already at some level to help keep a more designated order for those who choose (or have to accept) this lifestyle. Those who do not follow social mores can be excluded if desired by the gated aspect.
Running into discarded camps of mess elsewhere in the area while mountain biking perhaps would also not be so common.
The problem leading to homelessness is much more complex but this could be a considered option.
The current dissatisfaction expressed in this article by so many citizens of Bend and City Leaders is simply a logical consequence of the Bend City Council and our mayor having supported policies that actually exacerbate what the vast majority of citizens consider a serious problem. This latest move by our City Council and Mayor obviously does not fix or solve the homeless issue, it is simply a “kick the can” down the road “solution” politicians have used for years.
Let's find land in NW Bend. I believe the community support is there.
Are you aware of city/county land on the westside? Private land prices are too high. Which is why the dirt lot next to a highway made sense.
'Chang said he now worries about the working relationship between the city and the county.'
Setting aside one off joints between a councilor and commissioner, there is no working relationship above the staff level. City leadership should position against the county as being apposed to all public health palliatives that address the governor's state of emergency EO. Get behind and push the League of Oregon Cities to lobby governor to divert public health funding from counties and fund directly to cities. Bend will find support from Portland, Salem, and Eugene on this.
Agree entirely, L&V. Bypass the obstructionists on the County Commission. Thank you.
Classic. Nothing but complaints about homelessness problems. When it comes to solutions, nothing but spineless whining.
Let's find SOME land! The current situation is not tenable.
Debone and Adair are incapable of making tough decisions to solve problems. They sinply listen to who barks the loudest, failure of leadership at its finest. Maybe one day they will look back on their careers and feel ashamed that they took no substantive action to improve any of our counties challenges.
Let’s find some land near Keebler’s neighborhood and see how that works.
Shameful public conduct from Adair and DeBone who caved to their "base"--extremists who let themselves be guided by misinformation from hateful social media sites. City of Bend should appeal to the Governor's office for direct funding of the south Bend facility--and bypass the County Commission. This is not a good day in the history of regional government.
Terrible location next to a business. Would you like the camp in your neighborhood?
For the past 12 years my wife and I have actually lived next door to a residential treatment facility that helps people recover from addiction and severe mental illness. I can honestly say that we have never felt threatened in any way by any of the numerous residents who have benefitted from treatment and care at this facility--and moved on to better lives. They have shoveled snow for us and walked our dogs. We even hired one of the residents to work as an intern in our downtown shop.
Bend City Council has co-partnered with agencies and non-profits to create several facilities that serve a variety of roles in bettering lives. While others use every means of attack at their disposal to undermine these efforts to help others--including increasing use of the hate and misinformation that accompanies cultural wars--Bend City Council has been working to provide life-saving shelter, transitional housing, and access to services.
Not just a terrible location because of residents, have all these bleeding hearts actually look at this location. You couldn’t house a third of what at Hunnel Rd. It’s a main thoroughfare of south county residents leaving bend. It would be dangerous for the homeless and the drivers! It’s a shear drop off on the Hwy 97 side.
Like the two commissioners that have common sense, let’s find and area that makes sense! And to all the wokesters that it’s either are way or the highway, buckle down and work together!
Check your facts! The huuuuge majority of locals didn’t want this, and aren’t extremists. The call is coming from inside YOUR house.
Then, Mr. Woodsman, why was the Kids Not Camps group unable to get enough signatures on their petition to qualify a ballot measure for the 2022 election that would have prohibited City involvement in establishing shelters? I name as extremists that small group who have created a hobby out of disrupting public meetings and trying to scare public officials; in this case I believe they have succeeded in frightening Commissioners DeBone and Adair.
you are so far off base and uninformed with the truth . keebler needs to get her facts straight and so do you . The commissioners never took an official vote last week , it was stated they would be supportive if certain conditions were met ( proper management and security ) . The city never came with a real plan or budget . They just was wanted the county to roll over and give them a blank check . Kudos to DeBone and Adair for saying no. This camp would have set a dangerous precedent and thankfully the commissioners deal in reality . The city should be ashamed of themselves for already false information about Adair and Debone .
Looks like a small amount of sanity was on display with the two R's on the county commission. Not so much from the lone D. Many tears been shed by the city council and their poverty pimps enablers
What a disgusting thing to say. Stay classy.
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