A portion of Juniper Ridge may become the site of a managed outdoor homeless shelter, as well as a hub for homeless services.

On Wednesday, the Bend City Council showed interest in including a 1-acre parcel of land off 18th Street as a potential option for the city’s growing homeless population.

An outdoor shelter could range from a place for people to legally and safely park their vehicles or pitch tents, with amenities like portable toilets, to a more formal village with tiny homes.

There was also interest from some councilors for the land to be used by homeless-related organizations to coordinate and provide their services.

The hope is to get something running as soon as possible, said Councilor Gena Goodman-Campbell, though realistically that will likely be the beginning of next year.

“We feel a huge urgency to take action with winter approaching,” she said. “Also, the current situation of inaction that goes back a long time isn’t working for anyone.”

The idea to consider Juniper Ridge as a site comes as the city searches for as many suitable locations as possible for managed homeless camps to help provide safer options for Bend’s homeless population.

Earlier this year, two other locations were announced as potential options — one piece of city-owned land off Ninth Street and one piece of Oregon Department of Transportation-owned land between Third Street and U.S. Highway 97 near Murphy Road.

The city is currently in the process of requesting homeless shelter or safe parking proposals from homeless service providers. These proposals will outline plans for a managed outdoor shelter, including who would get to stay there and what guidelines guests at the camp would have to follow.

But with winter weather coming, the matter of getting some kind of shelter option set up is becoming more urgent, and some on the council see an opportunity to move quickly on the Juniper Ridge site.

“Are there ways we can fast track this process so we can get people into a safe camping environment before the weather gets even colder than it already is?” Councilor Megan Perkins said in the meeting Wednesday.

The site at Juniper Ridge, which is largely undeveloped city-owned land in the northeast part of town, is land that has been used as a place to crush large rocks for the construction of the North Interceptor Sewer Line.

Last fall, the city considered putting a managed homeless camp at a similar kind of site but on a different section of Juniper Ridge off Cooley Road. But plans were pulled back after a number of logistical challenges came up.

Neighbors in the area also protested the siting of an outdoor shelter there, with several testifying against the idea during City Council meetings.

This site off 18th Street is being considered because it already has road access and is flat, and after the first of the year will not be an active construction site, said Carolyn Eagan, the city’s recovery strategy and impact officer. The site off Cooley Road, however, will be involved in active construction next year, and therefore not an option.

Eagan said the site now being considered is surrounded by industrial land, several feet away from any residentially zoned or developed areas of town.

The city owns very little land within city boundaries, which makes Juniper Ridge an attractive option to consider since it is the city’s largest land holding, Goodman-Campbell said.

Winter weather often makes the rugged roads that wind through Juniper Ridge unpassable, Goodman-Campbell said, and she sees having a place where service providers can reliably get to people who already camp on the land as a benefit.

“It is a huge site, and it has a lot of potential for a lot of different uses,” she told The Bulletin.

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Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com

(4) comments

RJLA808

During the August 2020 fire, my neighborhood and the surrounding area was evacuated due to the fire that was started by a houseless person in a RV, which raged and burned a portion of JR to the north of our homes. While we were evacuating, a sheriff came door to door in our neighborhood and stressed that we needed to leave as quickly as possible because there was a chemical plant at risk of exploding--- this chemical plant is Suterra, and it backs up directly to acres upon acres of vacant land blanketed with dry juniper where the proposed homeless camp site will be.

Suterra produces their highly flammable insecticides and pest control products. This business has invested millions of dollars in this area due to the land being zoned "light industrial" --- There should not be any sort of housing, low or high barrier shelter, or managed camps close to this facility, yet during the City Council Stewardship Subcommittee Meeting on 8/19, Carolyn Eagen, Gena Goodman-Campbell, and Megan Perkins all agreed that "Crusher site #2" would be the best spot for a managed camp, this is directly behind Suterras highly flammable manufacturing facility!!!!!!

How can the safety of this area and 1000’s of residents, Juniper Ridge Business park employees/owners, elementary and middle school children, be placed in the hands of unexperienced councilors trying to come up with a plan for a managed camp for the first time? Do they have experience in developing these kinds of managed camps? Do we have any data to show the best location for these types of camps?

Is the City of Bend willing and prepared to take on the risk of building and funding a managed camp behind a chemical plant in an area that was zoned for light industrial prior to HB2006??

I urge anyone to attend a meeting where managed camps are discussed and you’ll quickly see City Council and City Staff are apprehensive in their decisions and have no experience implementing these types of camps.

TRANSFORM

just as a reminder, as this hair brained scheme is being pushed down everyone's throats, in totally disregard for the safety of 100's of homeowners and working people in the area that surround this proposed site.....Eric Bercot, the VP of Chemical Development at Suterra spoke during a City Coecausuncil meeting on November 18, 2020 expressing his concern of the October 2020 proposed managed camp saying, "The proposed managed camp is a huge public safety risk."

why? because Suterra is a highly flammable plant and the fires last year caused by a homeless couple in that area, resulting in the evacuation of 100's of adjacent homeowners, came very close to the plant, and if not for the heroic efforts of firefights, with whom I have personally spoken with, and was advised that if not for the continuous air response (which is not the norm), that the fire would have been uncontrollable because of inability of motorized equipment to respond, and may have blown up the plant.

more later!

dcwambaugh

I'm concerned that our society is not looking for and/or addressing the causes of homelessness in America.

Can you report on that?

It seems the focus right now is simply move the homeless out of site and out of mind. Is that the best America has to offer?

CentralOregonFred

Before the sewer project caused them to be evicted, there were numerous homeless campers back in Juniper Ridge. Several wildfires were started by the campers that threatened 100's of homes. If the city goes through with this, I hope they make fire safety of paramount importance.

Also, the City should relocate City Hall to Juniper Ridge and sell off the very valuable downtown property, for a great financial windfall for the city.

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