Turnkey

The former Bend Value Inn property, located at 2346 NE Division St. in Bend, on Thursday. The building was purchased by the city to become a homeless shelter as part of a grant program called Project Turnkey.

A solution to homelessness is simple: more housing. Permanent housing with supports that provide people with medical treatment and help finding employment does work. But where are the new locations in Bend where that could happen?

The city is working on many possible sites. Some are in development — a senior women’s shelter, a possible navigation center, tiny homes, the hotel being transformed on Division Street, safe parking options and more.

Not on that list: The former KOA campground at the corner of Cooley Road and U.S. Highway 97. It has been mentioned again and again. It has seemed to many people that it might be a good location. Being a former campground, it had basic infrastructure. It is not being used. It is actually quite close to the informal homeless camp on Hunnell Road.

But the idea of it becoming a site for a formal homeless camp seems dead, at this point.

Walmart had planned to build a superstore on the property. It bought up multiple parcels for $18 million in 2006. A local group opposed to the idea of a Walmart superstore formed to block it, Our Community First. But what actually killed the store was the ruling of a city hearings officer.

If you think the Cooley Road/Highway 97 can get bad now, it was bad then. The intersection was technically failing. Walmart offered to add traffic signals at some nearby intersections and add new turning lanes at Cooley and 97. A city hearings officer ruled that was not sufficient. Walmart appealed and lost. Since then, the property has essentially not been in use. Walmart still owns it.

The city has been working with Ken Streater, a real estate broker, to help it find locations for homeless shelters. He has looked at dozens of possible locations — motels, churches, shuttered restaurants. The list goes on.

He investigated the former KOA site, too. What he heard back was that Walmart would be looking to recoup its investment. He said that the idea that Walmart might donate the property “fell on deaf ears.”

The former KOA campground would only ever have been a partial remedy. It was worth investigating. Now finding feasible locations is just that little bit harder.

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(4) comments

Gary Mendoza

This editorial reflects the wave a magic wand school of public policy that guides Bend’s approach to homelessness.

How could any private company be expected to contribute property it purchased for $18 million for a homeless camp, particularly when Bend took actions that significantly undermined the value of its investment?

The fact this option was even considered suggests the City’s approach is detached from reality.

The experience in SF, LA, Portland, Seattle, NYC, DC, etc. sends the same message. In each case, good intentions were expected to reduce homelessness. Instead, increased homelessness is making those cities increasingly unlivable.

Bend has to stop approaching homelessness on the expectation that good intentions are enough or that money will grow on trees.

Transitory Inflation

' the idea that Walmart might donate the property “fell on deaf ears.”'

What in the world?

BuckeyeDuck

While this site would have been a good one it's not surprising that Walmart wouldn't want to hand it over. It would be interesting to see what current market value is for that piece of land.

skiman

Id be curious to know what its worth as well, land prices have gone to Pluto of late.

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