The well-housed, well-warmed and well-fed, as Herman Melville put it, can be devastating in their criticisms of the unhoused, cold and poorly fed.
Almost anywhere a shelter for the homeless may be sited, some neighbors will not want it.
When The Shepherd’s House homeless shelter in Bend wanted to expand about 10 years ago, neighbors protested. The Orchard District Neighborhood Association and nearby property owners argued not enough consideration was being given to the shelter’s impact on crime and property values. The expansion went ahead.
When a business owner a few years ago temporarily opened at night in downtown Bend to allow homeless to shelter from the cold, neighbors objected. They complained about human waste, trash, camping and more. That shelter is no more.
When the city proposed a formalized and supervised homeless camp at Juniper Ridge, neighbors objected. They argued it was a poor choice of location adjacent to neighborhoods and a business park and that it would increase fire danger and other dangers. That plan was abandoned.
Some of the criticisms and concerns have merit. But if the unhoused are to have a chance of living a better life, they can need a safe place to stay. A place to get services. A place for a new start. Or maybe just a place to avoid freezing to death on the street.
The city of Bend is formulating a new set of rules for homeless shelters in town. A city of Bend “sounding board” has been meeting to make recommendations to the city manager and Bend City Council. It has representatives from the council, planning commission, a homeless services provider, the business community and more.
How big can a shelter be? A draft proposal is that shelters could be 20 adults plus children or larger in the most “residential” of Bend’s zones. Shelters could possibly be as large as 150 beds in other areas.
How much parking should they be required to have? Half a space per unit, with a couple for visitors, was one proposal.
Another topic in last week’s discussion was what type of planning review should be required by the city. The committee seemed interested in what is called a Type 2 review. That would require notice of a planned shelter be sent to neighbors.
Notice is important. And we hope that the city provides more notice, rather than less. But while the well-housed will be able to freely complain and criticize a home for the unhoused in their neighborhood, the rules the city is developing will be decisive. As long as a shelter is following the rules, neighbors are going to be unlikely to be able to stop it. So if you have an idea about what the rules should say, tell the Bend City Council now. You can reach them at email@example.com.