No matter what Bend city councilors do, they are going to face pushback about the location of homeless shelters and city-approved managed camps.
You don’t need proof, but there was more on Friday.
A group of coaches affiliated with the Bend-La Pine Schools sent an email to the city expressing concern about the city’s plans to locate a managed camp near Bend Senior High School and Bear Creek Elementary. “The current decision to offer RV and tent camping in between the school campuses creates homeless opportunities at the expense of student safety,” they wrote.
Safety was also a concern when we went recently to listen to a city meeting with neighbors for the proposed hotel to house homeless on NE Division Street.
So what should the city do? Abandon both plans?
Where is the right place to put a managed camp? Is Juniper Ridge more OK because it’s not as close to a school? Perhaps, but what about the families who live near there or the businesses nearby? Is NE Division Street more OK? Shouldn’t homeless camps be located more than just the northeast part of town?
When a subcommittee of Bend city councilors met earlier in the week, they confronted the question of how to respond to public concerns about homeless camps. Both Councilors Melanie Kebler and Barb Campbell said a version of: “We are going to get objections no matter what.”
They were discussing parking for city managed homeless camps. How much should the city require?
Kebler argued for no requirements. The nonprofits the city partners with to run the camps should be able to decide for themselves how much parking is needed, she said. If the city requires parking, it could require too much and that could eat into the space for people to live at the camp.
But councilors know that parking in neighborhoods can be a sore spot. So if the city has no parking requirements and parking for a homeless camp spills into a neighborhood, it could be another issue for neighbors to complain about.
Yes, councilors are going to face objections about homeless camps no matter what. We’d argue they also are going to face objections charging them with not doing enough for the homeless no matter what.
Homelessness doesn’t yield to easy solutions. Finding ways to reduce it means we have to do things a lot differently than we do with unmanaged camps all over town. It’s not going to improve in Bend unless people start saying: How can we this make this work? Instead of: Not here.