As one who’s property has been directly impacted negatively by the homeless situation in Bend, I have thought a lot about the issue. I would like to offers several thoughts.
First, like a recent Bulletin editorial clearly expressed, I am appalled by the city’s handling of the siting of a new overnight center for the homeless — all done behind closed doors with only the staff and economically powerful involved, with a very inexperienced city council. This approach guarantees there is no accountability for this bad decision.
They decided to again foist the problem on to North Division Street businesses, an area with no political pull, just as they allowed a very impractical expansion at Shepherds House several years ago as mentioned in The Bulletin. The result has been a problem for a neighborhood that already suffered after being cut off by the Parkway.
Siting another overnight facility in this quieter neighborhood will create a steady flow of homeless, with attendant problems, between Shepherds House and the new Value Inn shelter. And it places residents, many likely without a car, over a mile from downtown services, whereas the Rainbow motel on Franklin Avenue, could serve twice as many and be only ¼ mile from said services.
This is in addition to allowing an apparently permanent tent city at the Revere/Parkway interchange. Clearly the powers that be are abandoning North Division street to the homeless.
This is all the result of a brazen power play by powerful developers, lawyers and staffers on a very inexperienced city using the excuse that it was discussing real estate, when in fact it was discussing a major policy initiative on homeless housing. Citizens have a right to know who is influencing the decisions and the reasons for them.
This power play excluded the Rainbow motel on Franklin Avenue as a housing center because it is in the new Urban Renewal District. Actually, the Rainbow motel site is ideal BECAUSE it is in the Urban Renewal District, which makes available substantial funding and draws attention to the area. This site is also appropriate because it is near downtown and on a major arterial so there is exposure that brings needed attention to any potential problems. Contrast that with North Division Street which is an ignored neighborhood that would be overrun with another homeless center. With a Division Street location, the center would be a big fish and big problem in a small area, where as on Franklin it would be a small fish in a busy vibrant area.
Clearly, if such a facility were located in this vibrant economic area with new investment guaranteed through the Urban Renewal District, which will have over $200 million of tax payer funds, the negative aspects will be much less than if were in a more inactive area like North Division Street. This busier area would assure more eyes on the situation, spot potential trouble, provide better supervision and quicker response time to any problem. And plenty of money to address any issues.
This action also makes a mockery of the promises of Central Oregon LandWatch and other promoters of the Urban Renewal District who guaranteed that it would be to the benefit all citizens and not just gentrify this diverse area. Such hypocrisy.
The decision to choose a location far from downtown, that will serve less than half as many clients, is an obvious power play at its worst. It is the ultimate NIMBY act by powerful interests and a NIMBY endorsed by the city. And the secret manner in which it was enacted is despicable.