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Bend’s Juniper Ridge neighbors express concerns about homeless camp plans

'I think you're inviting a lot of trouble.'

BEND, Ore (KTVZ) -- Bend city councilors got a briefing Wednesday night about new efforts to jump-start business development of the city-owned Juniper Ridge property. But they also got an earful about a temporary homeless shelter proposed for the south end of the site, by Cooley Road.

The Juniper Ridge Management Advisory Board laid out a three-phase, two-year plan to cut some land-use red tape and boost the potential to sell more of the 500 acres for business development.

The conversation surrounding the Juniper Ridge homeless problem continues to develop, weeks after a staff briefing that included a bid to move some of the dozens of campers living across the property to a managed RV/campsite.

The council says they have already begun to have meetings with nonprofits and neighborhood groups to help transition into the temporary shelter area.

Despite the move, several concerned neighbors spoke their minds during the visitors section of the council meeting.

Vickie Johnson of Bend expressed her distaste for the temporary shelter during the council call-in session of the remote meeting. They noted the proximity of homes, schools and businesses.

"I just don't believe putting a homeless community next to two schools and a community park is a wise decision," Johnson said. "I think you're inviting a lot of trouble."

Other disgruntled area residents said they want council members to focus more on affordable housing for veterans and other low-income families. They expressed concern about the homeless residents who have drug, alcohol and/or mental problems.

Bend City Manager Eric King stressed that the plan is to have this be a temporary, transitional site to get homeless individuals on the right track and connected to needed services. He said it's only planned under Gov. Kate Brown's emergency executive order that provides local governments with more flexibility to house people in safer conditions.

King added that the city is not a housing provider, so they must partner with the private sector or a non-profit organization to perform these services.

A new task force tackling the homeless issue also would look at establishing other emergency shelters elsewhere in the city, such as private and public parking lots. A winter warming shelter site has been found for this year, but "we're going to need a year-round shelter," he said.

Councilors also gave staff direction to continue looking at raising a construction excise tax used as an affordable housing fee, which Bend was the first city to impose in 2006. Recent changes in state law would allow using the added revenue to help fund shelter operations and create housing for low-income residents, as well as developing new child care slots.

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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.


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