Transformation of Bend’s homeless situation won’t happen by magic. And it won’t happen at all unless managed camps and more resources are dedicated to preventing homelessness.
The city’s proposed managed camp near Bend High School faces all the challenges you would expect and perhaps more. Many nearby residents and others were sent reeling by the announcement that the camp may come.
And now they are looking for answers to questions that the city doesn’t have, yet. Questions and issues were raised at the city’s first meeting with a handful of representatives from the neighborhood a few days ago.
What will security be like at and around the camp?
How will children walking to and from school be protected?
Will some sort of limits be put on people who can stay there?
Will nearby streets be crowded with parking from people who are homeless?
Will the camp be made up of tents, RVs or more permanent shelters?
How long will the camp be there?
Will pets be allowed and will there be facilities for them?
Will residents of the camp be allowed visitors?
Bend High Principal Christopher Reese, who was at the meeting, ticked off examples even without the camp being located nearby of school lockdowns, people using the district’s electricity and coming into buildings to find shelter.
Of all the concerns raised, possible limits on who would be a suitable resident for the camp got us thinking the most. If only people who have no drug use issues or no mental health challenges are allowed to stay in this camp, where do those people with the greater challenges stay? That’s not an easy question to answer.
No plan may be good enough for some people whose children walk to school in the area or who live nearby. Until there is a clearer picture of how the camp will be managed, though, people will color in the lines for themselves.
The city does have some broad outlines for the camp. It says the camp would have temporary bathrooms, garbage service, camp rules, “a good neighbor agreement,” and admission criteria for the people who live there. But the details are not set.
The city would select a qualified service provider and work with the provider to refine the plans.
Bend city councilors know it already but this one is going to be on them. This camp could be a major step toward meeting the challenge of Bend’s homeless. Or it could fail spectacularly and be the example people cite again and again of why managed camps are not the solution in Bend. The city needs to get it right.