A managed camp for the houseless near the Les Schwab at the south end of Bend is not dead. Without support from the county, Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler told us it could be.
There is a chance the city could get money from the Legislature to be able to afford to operate it. There is a chance other partners could step forward. We will have to wait and see.
The key to its death was a flip flop by the Deschutes County Commission. It first offered tentative financial support. Commissioners Tony DeBone and Patti Adair came back with a hard no about a week later. Commissioner Phil Chang remained supportive.
A flip flop in politics could mean any number of things.
It could be taken as a signal of spinelessness. It could mean a politician gets different information. It could mean the situation changes. It could be a canny reading of the politics.
We read through the emails and texts commissioners received from the day of their tentative support of the camp to the reversal. County staff swiftly provided them after a public records request. As you would probably guess, they were overwhelmingly negative. There were more than 100 pages of emails and similar themes.
“We don’t want that riff raff, crime and drugs on our streets in our neighborhood. Please the people that live in SW Bend do not want the homeless encampment moved to SW Bend.”
“Moving the crime-ridden camp from Hunnell Road to the lot next door to Les Schwab without all the necessary steps enforced will not change anything but the address of the problems occurring.”
“Inviting the rampant and documented theft, crime, violence and extreme drug abuse that’s been flourishing at the Hunnell Road encampment to this area is the height of poor judgment.”
“We have followed the ‘rules,’ bought a house in an area of town that we thought was a good place to raise a family and now our leadership doesn’t want to help the people who have already established homes for themselves. Make this right. Move this camp further away from these family neighborhoods and protect our children for once.”
There were a couple of emails backing the county’s decision to support the camp. And by a couple, we do mean a couple in over 100 pages of emails and texts.
What is a politician supposed to do? They should be listening to those constituents. That’s never wrong.
They should be trying to correct the multitudes of misinformation. They should be looking for ways to design managed camps to best address the concerns.
Should they just walk away from this camp? Is the community really going to be better off without an effort to try to make this camp work?
We don’t think so. Not at all.
We don’t expect politicians to get everything right. We don’t.
We do expect to see more leading and less running away.
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The city is mulling a transportation utility fee, a seasonal fuel tax and/or a targeted sales tax on food and beverage sales to cover transportaiton costs, repairs. You can respond directly to the city at email@example.com. See our editorial at https://bendbulletin.us/3n5cACr
The county tools clearly have political support, which is more important to them than public health or the difference between organized and unorganized camping. They city needs leverage. I'm not seeing where that would come from rn. But it will come.
Thank you for the insightful editorial. A clearheaded attitude includes realization that something must be done--and soon--to provide the means for people to escape the harsh conditions on Hunnell Road and elsewhere.
For a brief shining moment it sure looked like our elected officials from the City and County were on the same page and about to embark in a coordinated effort to build and staff the kind of managed site in Bend that could transition people out of homelessness.
But, then--and inevitably--social media kicked into high gear and misinformation hijacked the narrative.
The courageously rational Phil Chang writes today: “With the right support services and places to temporarily live there are many people in our community who can transition out of homelessness – youth and families with children, working people who can’t afford rent, seniors with chronic illnesses, and veterans. The vast majority of our local homeless population are long term Central Oregonians. If we dramatically reduce the number of unsheltered homeless in our community by providing real pathways out of homelessness, the remaining homeless population will be much easier to deal with.”
Phil cites a Medford facility as a model we could emulate. “This facility offers basic sanitation, dry sheltered tent sites, and is fenced and gated. To be allowed to stay at Medford Urban Campground, people go through screening, agree to follow site rules, and sign up for a progress plan. 24-7 site managers and a range of service providers help residents move forward with their progress plans and to take steps out of homelessness. The site managers ensure residents are following the rules and keep the camp safe.”
To learn more about this facility--and its 62% success rate in moving people out of homelessness--go to rogueretreat.org
I think we should not give up. If it becomes apparent that these two County Commissioners remain adamant in refusing to support proven solutions, then we could engage in direct democracy.
My understanding is that with 6581 valid signatures gathered by Aug. 9, a referendum would qualify for the Nov. ballot that could give voters the opportunity to overturn the March 8 County Commission vote that led us to this impasse.
In the BCC motion to purchase the 1.6 acres for $45k, it states, “Prior to any final decision being made on how to use the land, the City intends to involve neighbors in the discussion. Those will likely be conversations for the next Council to have in 2023.“
Well, that didn’t happen.
The reason they said "no" was that the city was trying to get the county to take full responsibility, including liability for the camp AND pay for it. Also, there was no cohesive plan for the camp with regard to finances, security, addmissions, management. It was a proposal, not a plan. The city did not do their homework and proposed a half-baked plan for the county to deal with. If they want to show some leadership... do your homework!
The public did not want the homeless camp at the 3rd ave exit. Two of the commissioners listened and said no. That was the right thing to do. The city came to the county with a half baked plan on how to fund/run it. That was the wrong thing to do.
The County doesn't have a plan either and they're the ones in charge of health services in the area!
The County has a Pilot Program in the works, see this website:
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