Guest Column

I read in Sunday’s paper the guest column by Chuck Hemingway about the proposed “managed” homeless camp near the schools that made ten points in favor of the “village,” but all the points blatantly contradict. First and second, the “village” would “visually fit in ” and “have a webbed fence,” which doesn’t make sense if you are trying to protect the privacy of those who live there, and I fail to see how an 8-foot fence would aesthetically fit in with the community. Point six further contradicts the privacy plea as the writer wants the children in the camp to walk to school with those who do not live there, presumably by waiting for their classmates outside of the fence. Points three, four and five state that the “gated community” will have a 24/7 security shed and won’t allow anyone in past curfew, but the “security” shed will be staffed by the residents. How is that secure!?

Point 10 says there will be no camping outside of the “gated community,” but inevitably when the late arrivers can’t get in and they can’t camp out front, they will roam the residential neighborhoods looking for a place to sleep. Point eight highlights it will be a low-barrier shelter, which means mental health issues and drug use will not bar the affected homeless from using the shelter and converging near the elementary and high schools. Once again, how is that safe for the students and surrounding community?

Point nine says “they must keep the area tidy,” which if you have driven past any camps, you know that cleanliness is not a high priority for the unhoused. Point seven states there will be an overseeing nonprofit that will have arrangements with fire and police personnel but does not name the overseeing agency nor gives any information about what the “arrangements” will be.

If my husband and I, who just paid over $500,000 for a home in the proposed neighborhood due to the rising house costs, have a need for the cops due to this terribly placed and non-secure camp, what will their protocol be, or will they defer to the “security shed?” Something does need to be done, but there are different areas that would be better suited to helping the unhoused population.

Other editorials published in The Bulletin state that we as a community cannot keep saying no to homeless camps, and I agree, but this location is not viable. Shouldn’t the hypothesis of a low-barrier self-managed camp be tested farther away from where young children are required to go for their education? How would that benefit the young minds?

A better location would be near or on the Oregon State University-Cascades campus. The unhoused population would still be close to medical facilities, food and employment opportunities. The school could also benefit by allowing their (social work, psychology, hospitality management, human development/family sciences, sustainability, teaching, pre-med, etc.) students internships and post-graduate jobs working at and managing the facilities for those affected by the housing crisis. Young adults have better reasoning and situational awareness than that of elementary-aged students, and as such, would be better equipped to deal with the proximity to homelessness.

The homeless, in turn, could also work at the school, which would take away transportation issues for them and provide stability. Additionally, they would benefit from being able to take courses to improve literacy and obtain their GEDs and/or higher education. This, in turn, would allow a smoother transition for the homeless to reenter society and give them a much better chance to improve their futures and the future of this town.

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Naomi Sigler lives in Bend.

(2) comments

58909

Bend City Administrative Order 2021-001, used to close the Emerson Street homeless camp, included this criteria in its determination of an unsafe campsite: “Whether campsites are located in rights-of-way near or used to access nearby school, daycare, playground, or other property providing service to children.” Why is siting a camp between two schools and a trail kids use suddenly okay?

BuckeyeDuck

Well said. The idea of placement being close to OSU Cascade is not a bad one either with regards to services in the area. Between two schools and being the first of it's kind in Central Oregon without a total plan in place was not the best idea.

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