Juniper Ridge camp

An aerial view looking south of cleared land from the North Interceptor Sewer Line project that has been proposed as a site for a managed homeless camp near NE 18th Street, top left, at Juniper Ridge.

Residents who live in the vicinity of Juniper Ridge are protesting the idea of a managed outdoor homeless shelter being hosted on the land, mainly citing concerns about safety and their general discomfort with being near unhoused people.

But the Bend City Council remains unswayed and councilors have called the community’s viewpoint disheartening.

“Listening to people in our community not be able to put their own privilege aside to serve the greater community is embarrassing as a leader,” City Councilor Rita Schenkelberg said.

Earlier this month, the city of Bend suggested a 1-acre parcel of industrial land in northeast Bend, often referred to as “Crusher Site No.2,” as a place that could host a managed homeless outdoor shelter.

An outdoor shelter could mean anything 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. The shelter would be professionally managed by a homeless services provider, and residents chosen for the shelter would likely have to follow community guidelines and rules in order to stay.

The city hopes to receive proposals from providers to see if this parcel, or another piece of city-owned land, would be suitable to help house Bend’s growing homeless population.

But several nearby residents who live near Juniper Ridge oppose the idea. Many cited concerns around an assumed increase in crime, its general proximity to a middle school and fears of fire breaking out next to Suterra, a chemical-processing plant.

Thien Ho, a spokesperson for Suterra, declined to comment on whether the company had an opinion about the proposed outdoor shelter site.

Many of the residents characterized the issue of homelessness as one of drug addiction and mental illness. Some argued the majority of homeless people are from out of town anyway, which data from Central Oregon’s Point-in-Time count disputes.

The count, performed in January, found an overwhelming number of the nearly 1,100 people who reported being homeless have lived in Central Oregon for more than three years.

But the overall message was clear: No homeless people near neighborhoods, schools or parks.

“You can’t expect people to live next to the homeless,” said Allison Eilerman, a Bend resident. “It’s not fair.”

David Schwarz, an attorney representing Cascade Village, a manufactured housing planned retirement community for residents 55 and older, also criticized the city’s lack of notice and clarity around the proposal, and argued the residents of the village are particularly “susceptible” to crimes like home invasion.

“While effective solutions to the City’s homeless problem are needed, concentrating the homeless population at Crusher Site No. 2 inevitably maximizes associated safety risks and negative impacts and places them all on the shoulders of but a few of Bend’s most vulnerable citizens,” Schwarz wrote in a letter to the city.

Schwarz also argues a homeless camp is not something that can be legally put at Juniper Ridge.

Mary Winters, the city’s attorney, said in an email the city’s safe parking code is consistent with how many cities operate their safe parking programs and that the city is “confident we can operate a program legally.”

This is not the first time the city has faced backlash after announcing a possible location for a managed homeless shelter. More than a year ago, when the city proposed putting one on a different part of Juniper Ridge, Boyd Acres Neighborhood residents protested.

Other locations, such as land off Ninth Street and off Murphy Road and U.S. Highway 97, have also faced opposition, all for similar concerns around safety.

Councilor Megan Perkins said she has found the comments from the community “disheartening.”

“I think there are ways to express fears and work through problems together, but we have to stop dehumanizing our neighbors,” Perkins told The Bulletin Thursday. “That’s step one.”

Perkins said she has yet to receive any suggestions for another location in town from the people who oppose the idea.

“That’s my biggest worry, that we just say ‘no’ and we don’t work on solutions together,” Perkins said.

From her point of view, much of what people are fearing is driven by what people are seeing when homeless camps aren’t managed, Perkins said.

Regardless of the backlash, Perkins said she and the other councilors are united in the vision to find a way to give homeless people a safer housing alternative quickly.

“I think we are all willing to take the abuse and hear the comments and read the emails because we know this is the right thing,” Perkins said.

Sign up for our Daily Headlines newsletter

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

(7) comments

RTCC

As many have weighed in on this issue via editorials, comments, and postings on social media, it is evident that large numbers of taxpaying, hard working Bend residents value what they have worked to achieve. The City Council made very clear their disdain for those who don’t want the drugs and crime coming to their neighborhood. They even pretend that the drugs and crime don’t exist with these camps, as long as they are “managed.” The City of Bend should spend its taxpayer dollars helping those who are willing to do something to help lift themselves out of this unfortunate situation of being houseless. They should not spend those dollars on continuing handouts to those who have no intention of doing anything but taking any freebies that are offered. And of course this will draw more who have similar intentions to Bend. They certainly should not place camps anywhere near neighborhoods or businesses, no matter where in Bend.

Councilor Schenkelberg, I voted for you and several of your fellow councilors who nodded their heads as you conducted your tirade on what an embarrassment people are who spoke against the Council’s half-baked plans. You all are an embarrassment to many of us. We voted for diversity, not people who were deaf to the legitimate concerns of their voters. Recall, anyone?

TRANSFORM

Yet another series of untruthful comments from councilors who do not have the best interests of our homeless population nor our taxpaying, voting, community members first and foremost. Their continued misrepresentation of sentiments are widely known as indicated in their tirade against the aforementioned community members. I know no-one who is opposed to providing for the legitimate needs of the truly homeless. I and others have offered strategies for success to the city councilors, all of which have fallen on deaf ears. I and others I know are NOT against managed camps, just those that are located in the midst of areas that have the probability of endangering the lives of children and seniors, as well as the hard worked for businesses and residences…I guess the definition of which to some councilors is now called “privileged”. None of these councilors have had to evacuate their family and homes as a result of fire caused by homeless campers, so they will never understand that trauma, so they as well are “privileged” in that sense. And the degrading and condescending comments by Schenkelberg and Perkins make me and others disheartened that we even voted for them in the first place. In addition, they are the ones who are dehumanizing everyone, homeless and privileged alike. Look around, especially Hunnel Road….are they proud of what they’ve wrought and allowed? Are they laser focused on getting the addicted, mentally ill, abused women, disabled Vets the immediate help they need? NO! Are they concerned that a low-barrier managed camp in Juniper Ridge will attract other campers who will likely camp outside any “managed camp” and make the whole area a mirror image of Hunnel Road? NO!

One has to be very naive to believe that there is an “assumed” increase in crime and fire risk, when facts about crime and fire risk are not just possible but probable based on actual events and statistics. But very naive is exactly what these councilors are and a trait we can’t afford to let continue.

While Thien Ho, a spokesperson for Suterra, may have declined to comment on whether the company had an opinion about the proposed outdoor shelter site, this previous comment by Eric Bercot, VP Chemical Development, Suterera, right after the fire that caused the mass evacuation in the Juniper Ridge area, is more salient and prescient, “the proposed managed homeless camp near Suterra is a HUGE public safety risk”. I don’t believe he’s being naive.

This article said that many of the residents of the Juniper Ridge area characterized the issue of homelessness as one of drug addiction and mental illness, and that couldn’t be further from the truth! Goodness knows where that idea came from. I and others I know have never said that and in fact have advocated for the immediate proper treatment of the minority of the homeless that are in fact addicted, the minority of the homeless that are in fact mentally ill, and the immediate proper treatment and required assistance be provided to those experiencing homelessness only because they are working but still cannot afford rent in Bend. That’s what the folks I know believe. The truth is no one knows how many of any of those experiencing homelessness are in any of the above categories, and while we continuously hear about the 1000+ number experiencing homelessness, a number no one disputes, the composition of that population remains unknown, and therefore, strategies and tactics to provide assistance have not been developed. And anyone who thinks that without knowing the composition of the homeless population other than demographics an effective strategy can be developed are by definition, naive.

Perkins also didn’t tell the whole truth when she said she has yet to receive any suggestions for another location in town from the people who oppose the idea. There have been numerous suggestions for locating managed camps on city owned property in town, they’ve just been dismissed! Other city owned property locations have even been suggested by other members of council, only to be poo-pooed by the “enlightened” members. There have also been offers of land owned by the county be used that is just a few miles outside of town limits with transportation provided which would alleviate the concerns of people that are opposed to locating any type of camp in a populated and fire prone area of town. So, there have been scores of people who are not saying NO, but the councilors are not listening to them, rather, they are all drinking the same Kool-Aid and continue to pursue their failed strategies, just as she said, “we are united….because we know this is the right thing…”. What they lack in common sense and lessons from experience they clearly make up for in chutzpah and naivety!

Gary Mendoza

It’s not often you see elected officials express such contempt for their constituents.

In response to completely legitimate concerns regarding the impact of a homeless camp in their neighborhood, Councilmember Schenkelberg condemns Bend residents for not putting their “privilege” aside to do what she deems righteous.

Councilmember Perkins is a bit less obtuse, but she clearly expresses the Council’s intent to ignore Bend residents regarding homelessness.

The policies our esteemed councilmembers have been pushing have made Bend’s homeless problem manifestly worse.

Bend needs a complete reset of its homeless policy to put the interests of Bend residents at least on par with interests of the homeless and homeless service providers.

It’s also increasingly clear Bend needs a new City Council; one that’s prepared to listen to Bend residents, not condemn them.

Cpgn

The attorney’ expressed concerns regarding the vulnerability of the 55 plus community is well founded and needs to be further considered when proposing an area for managed homeless. My sister in-law lives on Cooley Rd and had 2 attempts of break ins when the homeless were living at Juniper ridge. Unfortunately, the area is susceptible to this behavior. Please report on the newly established unlawful camp that has pooped up along Murphy Rd and 97 by highway exit. This is now the newest encroachment and unlawful camping that needs to be addressed for the health and safety of the nearby homes and community.

Thomas Who

City Councilor Rita Schenkelberg not listening to the taxpayers in our community express concerns over their personal safety and the crime that accompanies homeless encampments and not being able to put her own privilege aside to serve the special interest donor community is embarrassing to the entire city.

Transitory Inflation

'Juniper Ridge site for possible managed homeless shelter draws backlash'

The sun also came up this morning I noticed.

lillianr

Bend City Councilors, it is embarrassing to the tax payers in the area, that our concerns for safety are minimized and ignored. The Juniper Ridge parcel, under discussion, is a few short blocks to an elementary and middle school. The first time there is an altercation between a child and a 'houseless' person, the city will get sued. IMHO, you are asking for trouble.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.