The where and when of Bend’s unsanctioned camping policy started taking shape Wednesday night.
So where and when might the Bend City Council allow camping on city property or city rights of way?
No camping near the river. Not near city buildings or water facilities. Not in city parking lots. Not near shelters for the homeless. Not near residential zones. The direction from council seemed less certain about near parks or near schools.
As for the when, that was more difficult for the council and city staff. Fixed times for camping, such as 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. all year round are simpler to understand, simpler to enforce. But the daylight hours also change over the year. The city would not have the staff to enforce a sweep of city property and rights of way at, say, 7 a.m. every morning, anyway.
Councilors seemed to have general agreement that overnight camping would be OK and wanted staff to bring back a recommendation for how to word that and allow for exceptions.
To be clear, no ordinance was passed Wednesday night. Councilors and staff are trying to figure out what direction they want the ordinance language to go. Issues such as what sort of camping is allowed and the wording of the ordinance will be discussed at future council meetings.
The general concept is that the city would prohibit camping on city property or city rights of way — unless an individual assessment was made that there was no shelter available for that individual to stay in. The Bend Park & Recreation District can set its own policy for city parks.
One theme that councilors returned to like a refrain Wednesday night was building in discretion into any ordinance. They want to give people enforcing the policy — police or code enforcement — clear direction but also allow them to use judgment.
This ordinance and any accompanying regulations have a wicked balance to strike — differing public views about use of public property and people who are homeless, complying with court rulings and state law, allowing people to have a place to rest but also encouraging them to seek better shelter when it is available.