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Bend councilors discuss Emerson Avenue homeless camp removal

(Update: Adding video, comments)

Service providers say campers have moved to areas like railroads, canals, DRW area

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Last month, the city of Bend closed the Emerson Avenue homeless camp in southeast Bend after declaring it a public safety and health hazard, under a new policy.

During Wednesday evening's council meeting, city staff and councilors discussed an after-action report summarizing what went well in the closure and camp removal, and what needs to be improved moving forward.

According to city staff, the majority of homeless individuals had left before Emerson Avenue was officially closed on June 23.

The city provided what they say is clear, consistent, and timely communication with campers ahead of the closure so individuals could prepare to leave.

Service providers were also allowed to assist campers with packing and relocating, to help transition individuals to places like Bend's Shepherd's House, among other areas.

Bend's Family Kitchen Program Director Donna Burklo said campers were provided with access to phones within minutes of the closure, equipment, coffee, water, food, and were also set up with necessary medications or prescriptions.

Burklo added that campers said Bend Police officers were "kind" and "respectful" during the process.

Councilor Megan Perkins asked service providers if any individuals that were removed have been lost in the process, and if so, where have they moved.

Another service provider, REACH's Executive Director Stacey Witte, says the majority of campers have dispersed, moving 2-4 times since the closure.

"A fair amount of people have gone to Hunnell Road," Witte said. "I do have a handful of folks that left Emerson that went down towards the DRW (Deschutes River Woods) area."

Witte said others have also dispersed to railroad and canal areas across Bend. And all agreed that the various efforts to find safe places, such as a managed camp, are the real answer that cannot come soon enough.

"We all know this, that's the long-term goal, is to not have another Emerson pop up, or a Hunnell Road or behind Space Age (Fuel)," Witte said. "That's where we need to address that gap in services."

Colleen Thomas, homeless services coordinator at Deschutes County Behavioral Health, said it was good to have service providers coordinate the effort to help those hit by the homeless camp closure, noting that it was “traumatizing for service providers as well. It shouldn't have to take a closure for that opportunity (to coordinate) to happen.”

City Manager Eric King said resources being provided at the Hunnell Road homeless site include increased dumpster service, more portable toilets, a shower truck, misting station and more hand-washing stations.

Several speakers during the visitors' section of the council's first meeting in a month, some who speak frequently at the meetings, berated the councilors for evicting the residents without a safe place for them to go. One of the men forced to leave was one of the two men who died days later amid record heat at the Hunnell Road campsite.

While the state medical examiner later determined the cause of their deaths were not heat-related, some speakers Wednesday night sharply attacked councilors, accusing them of "murder" and of killing the men with their policies. One was not allowed to speak further for violating council rules about such direct attacks.

City of Bend budget adjustment recommendations prioritize housing and maintaining service levels for community

During Wednesday's City Council work session, the Council supported staff recommendations for a $13.1 million budget adjustment focused on supporting housing and meeting service needs for the community. The budget adjustments support the 2021-2023 City Council Goals and include $6 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, with the remainder coming from state funding and other sources. Council is expected to adopt the recommended budget adjustments at its August 18 meeting.

“These proposed budget adjustments support our pandemic recovery efforts and reflect growing needs in our community,” said City Manager Eric King. “They will provide additional critical resources to help respond to some of Bend’s most pressing issues.”

To support the Council’s housing goal, $7.5 million is proposed for a navigation center for unhoused community members, renovations and other costs related to Project Turnkey, and additional funding for affordable housing. Funding is also recommended for establishing a managed camp for those who are unhoused. Adding staff to support housing production and programs is also part of the recommended budget adjustments.

Another $4.2 million is proposed to help meet service demands by adding staffing to support record-setting building permit activity, equity in community engagement, and administration services. ARPA funding is recommended to fund some staff positions that were vacant and eliminated during 2020 COVID-19 budget reductions.

Additional recommendations include $1.2 million to support pandemic recovery efforts such as utility assistance, workforce development, childcare, non-profit community assistance and Downtown planning. There is also $200,000 allocated for transportation maintenance and other transportation-related projects.

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Alec Nolan

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

Comments

80 Comments

  1. some speakers Wednesday night sharply attacked councilors, accusing them of “murder” and of killing the men with their policies……” well, these foilks are more than welcom to take some of the ‘campers’ in to thier homes, thanks

      1. I do support the military using my (and your) public land. I get a great deal in return. Liberty, security, etc. What return do I get for allowing folks to foul and pollute my land?

      2. What an asinine comment! Yes, I would let soldiers stay in my home if it ever devolved to that. I don’t have to house the homeless, our community has more than enough services for them.

    1. Yep, it’s a pretty weak murder case. They’d have better luck going after the Republican healthcare improvement obstruction tactics.

      1. HOW could there be any improvements to be made after Obamacare??? Are you saying Obamacare is a failure? Did republicans somehow outlaw emergency care? When did that happen. Please site the law they passed.

  2. “And all agreed that the various efforts to find safe places, such as a managed camp, are the real answer that cannot come soon enough.”

    This is part of the problem. Giving the a place to camp is NOT the solution. Reintegration into society should be the goal. If that is not possible, institutionalization would be better than encouraging and enabling them to live in filth and squalor. A misting station and a bottle of water isn’t a victory or a success.

  3. No sympathy for anyone who is homeless for more than 30 days. With as many jobs available within the city, there is no excuse. Get a job and support yourself, stop milking the system. Your not your mama’s little baby anymore.

    1. How ignorant and foolish! Just brush yourself off and get a job? In 30 days you will have a home and a car to go with it? Look outside your bubble and see that there are homeless people who ARE working but can’t afford the high cost of living here. Bet you complain when your favorite restaurant is closed early due to the lack of slaves to work it?

      1. Grow up stoner! Your not impressing anyone with your political stance on homelessness.
        Back in the 70s, I too was homeless, and had long hair, very unemployable. However ambition to work, and a family to support, in a not so forgiving society gave me the initiative to get off my duff, and I’m thankful for that experience. It made me a better person, more self reliant. It started in Az, and ended up in the PNW. I speak from experience when I say anything, not just off the cuff like some. Society only hurts these people by coddling them. The homeless will work, and survive when they get hungry enough. It’s only human nature to survive.

      2. What happens when you can’t afford to live somewhere. You don’t live there. I want to live in LaJolla. But I don’t because I can’t afford it. Feel free to start your own apartment complex for “affordable housing” and start your business to pay “living wages.” You seem to know all the solutions.

    2. Some of these “mama’s little babies” are working 2 full time minimum wage jobs and still can’t afford to put a roof over their heads. And, if they have children, they barely have enough to feed their fami!y. They don’t want your “sympathy,” but is understanding, tolerance and respect as human beings too much to expect from our so-called Christian society?

      1. Where does the bible state one should take taxes and property from people to give to someone else? Hint. There is something about that in the Ten Commandments.

        1. Where does the bible state caring for the weakest and poorest among us is Godlike? Hint: There is something about that in the New Testament where you’ll find the teachings of Christ.

          1. The new, and the old, is nothing more than a story book that came from a long line of story tellers. If there was such a magical being do you think
            this being would let the christian society even remotely experience the way our world has become? I think not. Life, you live you die, lights out, parties over. No heaven, no hell it is what it is.

            1. I am a believer but not of organized religion which is the infrastructure for the greedy and power hungry. Seeing how easily today’s hypocritical evangelicals attach themselves to charlatans, grifters, liars, and sexual predators, is it surprising God would turn a blind eye and allow the societal degradation?

        1. There is no right place. The recent housing report states that housing is out of reach in all 50 states for anyone earning minimum wage. The report states in most cities, a person would have to work 4 full time minimum wage jobs to afford the least expensive apartment.

          1. ……….why is a functional adult only capable of earning the minimum wage?? My last (and only) minimum wage job was when I was in high school, I quickly got a raise.

            1. There are lots of contributing factors from lack of a permanent address to educational background. Lots of individuals have criminal records and, though they’ve paid their debt to society and have stayed out of trouble, are still considered a risk to employ. So congrats on being a functional adult able to use the system as it is designed, but others are not as fortunate.

    1. Because none of them live near Hummel road. They live in NW Crossing or the old neighborhoods near Drake Park and Galveston. And none of them would ever go to Lowes, they have “people” for such menial tasks. They get to pedal their $5,000 electric bikes to council meetings (on nice days, on other days, they drive their expensive cars to free parking provided by you) but never go near that icky place on the North End of town…or the South End near China Hat. That’s gross.

  4. Nice how the fact that the state medical examiner stated that the two deaths widely reported on recently as heat related deaths were actually not from heat related issues. The original storyline had several articles written on it stating this fact yet when the total opposite comes out that info is buried in a small paragraph in a story like this. If there are articles dedicated to a story and that story turns out to be completely false, there should be entire articles that cover that as well. This all sets up a narrative and when truth actually comes out it gets buried. Happens so much now. Shameful.

        1. There are no retractions. We were presenting factual info from officials in both cases. It changed, and things often change. Science and information often evolve, that’s not a “mistake,” as most non-blamers understand. That’s the way things work.

  5. This story sure shows a lot of editorial bias against city council speakers- was “berate” really the most neutral term you could think of? Not to mention there are speakers at every single council meeting, its not the least bit weird or uncommon, and its strange ktvz would imply anything else
    !
    Forcing bend residents to die openly on the street multiple times a year however? Does seem a little weird and uncommon, perhaps worth some valuable council time.

    1. It accurately reflected the tone of the speakers (and it has risen to that level frequently in the past year). They were personally, verbally attacking city councilors, and I cannot recall a visitor section commenter accusing the council of “murder” before.

  6. You’ve fallen into a caring, empathetic, generous community my homeless friends, but there’s the catch. Just like for the rest of us, there are issues of sanitation, city codes, public safety, transportation, and crime prevention that requires us to set the locations and conditions of the places where you reside. We all have to follow some requirements to co-exist. If those rules are too hard to follow….please move along or expect to be moved for the good of the entire community.

  7. There is very little chance this will be solved rationally. I spoke to anthony boardman, what a joke he is, and Sally Russell. The city believes that if they provide a mister tent and dumpster they have done their job. Sally actually said it should be up to volunteers to go pick up the garbage and filth on Hunnel Road, not the responsibility of the city, the county, or the people living on the street. Obtuse city leaders like Anthony Boardman who live in NMW Crossings will never solve this issue until it appears on the sidewalks in front of their homes. Time to relocate Hunnell Road camp to Discovery Park, they deserve better than being sent to an empty street when they could be camping lakefront in NW Crossings.

    1. Most homeless are smart enough to know if they camped near anyone on the council, they would be evicted immediately. So that’s never going to happen, however it’s a good thought.

      1. They can’t evict them from the sidewalk in front of their house if they can’t evict them from a sidewalk in front of your house.

  8. In case the “activists” missed it this social issue is being addressed in similar fashion throughout the state. For example, Salem (the seat of Oregon state government) was just in the news last week regarding its renewed campaign to clean up the city while providing options for those who wish to participate.

    “Officials with both the City of Salem and ODOT said they will have a resource center set up in the Denny’s parking lot across the street to connect the homeless with immediate resources.

    “We’re trying to get as many of these people hooked up with the social service agencies in the area and they are the ones that can provide the necessary assistance. So by doing that, we hope that we won’t have as many people returning,” said ODOT’s Lou Torres.

    “ODOT said they’ve also discussed putting up fences or other barriers in these areas to prevent the illegal camps in the future. And over the next few months the agency will be clearing smaller camps throughout the state.” – https://www.koin.com/local/marion-county/odot-to-sweep-large-salem-homeless-camps/

    Roseburg is right behind Salem and Portland (yes, even Portland) is now seeking to take back its streets, parks, and neighborhoods.

    Doing so requires short and long term planning, sustainable funding resources, inter-agency cooperation to include NGO input / assistance, the appropriate incorporation of law enforcement resources and assets, and appropriate goal setting with do-able objectives and accomplishments.

    This is what is occurring in Central Oregon (not just Bend) today.

    As for the “usual suspects” who promote themselves as activists in this arena it is not surprising the only contribution some of them apparently made at last night’s meeting was the volume of their time-worn rants. The core of these individuals, upon examination, appear to use this and other social justice issues as a venue for (perhaps) their own behavioral health and associated challenges. The city council is correct in its increasingly clear understanding of who these folks are and how little they bring to the table in terms of constructive, objective, thoughtful support and assistance.

    They were among the first to decry the unfortunate deaths of the two senior age homeless men as being heat related. They fueled the social media sites with their allegations (“blood on their hands; “murderers”; “we told you so”) without having the professional acumen to wait for the autopsy reports to be made public. Wholly appropriate these same voices were given the opportunity to speak last night…up to the point where they became what they are…shrill, malevolent, unhappy campers whose public stage is slowly and thankfully shrinking.

    The Bend City Council and others may find reassurance that this obstructionist behavior is not just taking place here. ‘In an update Wednesday, Tory reiterated that anyone evicted is offered indoor housing, with the city even giving people experiencing homelessness guided tours of potential living spaces being offered up.

    But Tory said efforts to move vulnerable people indoors are being hampered by some protesters.

    “Some of the city staff … have been followed home,” Tory alleged. “They have been harassed at their homes. They face all kinds of verbal abuse, the likes of which most people would never be expected to put up with in their jobs, from frankly, the protesters.”

    “Tory added that the large presence of protesters, “necessitates” a larger police presence to assure safety — a recipe for some of the clashes that have led to arrests.

    “It just creates an element that can lead to less than safe conditions,” he said.”

    https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/07/21/tory-protestors-homeless-encampments/

    There’s an old military adage that goes like this. “Lead, Follow, or get out of the way”. Those who can’t play well with those doing the heavy lifting in this matter fall into the latter Course of Action.

  9. Either way the community ends up footing the bill, institutionalizing them could be the best of the two evils.
    Get a job, or two, to become a pillar of society, or be institutionalized. Definitely some incentive there.

    1. Institutionalizing them where exactly? State hospitals that still exist are beyond capacity. Maybe you consider “some incentive” to be prisons or perhaps a version of interment camps like our nation did for the Japanese?

        1. So you’re saying the homeless should have to give up their liberty? Awfully big price to pay for a decent place to live, if you can call a prison or concentration camp that. Is incarceration a price you’d be willing to pay?

            1. So should everyone who litters along highways or dumps mattresses or appliances next to forest service roads. It’s not just homeless people who trash the scenery. Where’s your outrage about that kind of filth?

        1. Our prison system is more overloaded than our mental health institutions, and you suggest incarcerating people for the non-crime of being homeless? Brilliant!

          1. You suggest that they be allowed to live in filth and squalor? I suggest we get them housing, and treatment. 3 hots and a cot beats eating out of dumpsters and waiting for the shower truck. These people
            need help. The folks footing the bill need accountability.

            1. I’m not suggesting that at all! I agree they need help. But incarceration? For the amount of money being thrown at the homeless problem, there’s been very little success. AAMOF, over the past few years, the problem seems to have grown much worse. And yes, accountability is an issue. How much of our tax money is finding its way into the pockets of those in positions to profit from the suffering of others? I’d wager it’s a lot more than any of us could imagine.

  10. Interesting that missing in this article and the associated comments is any mention of addiction. Having personal experience with many in the homeless community – it’s clear that our drug epidemic is an outsized factor in putting and keeping people on the street. Most of us have been witness to the tragedy of addiction and many of us know personally the heartbreak it leaves on family and friends. For an addict, housing won’t cure the disease. Sadly, real recovery depends on an ongoing commitment to treatment that most addicts aren’t willing to deal with. As such, any housing provided by public funds ought to require assessment and treatment. Ultimately, such policy would benefit the addicts themselves the most.

    The War on Drugs has been rolled on along for decades now – and the problem is worse than ever. Yet, I don’t see that as a reason not to keep fighting the good fight. Most of the street drugs poisoning our community comes across the Mexican border. Fact. Government can’t change the psychological issues that predispose some to addiction, but it sure can do a much better job securing the border.

    As for the Bend City council, it is clearly devoid of political courage as demonstrated by it’s failure to implement adequate restrictions on where homeless can set up shop. The situation on Emerson was absolutely perpetuated by allowing anyone at all to live there in the first place. That never would have been tolerated in the Bend neighborhoods that our councilors call home.

      1. Then get together with the rest of your caring friends and put your money where your mouth is and buy a place for the to live and make sure you have money to take care of them forever. Drugs and alcohol treatment can get very expensive.

        1. Friend- whether we like it or not, tax money has, is, and will continue to be spent on housing for those on the street. My contention is that any short or long term housing provided by a government should be contingent on participation in treatment for drugs and alcohol for those addicted. Those that can’t or won’t get and stay clean would have at least had the chance. Most aren’t addicted because they’re homeless – they’re homeless because they’re addicted.

        2. Over the past 20 years or so I have shared my home with a couple dozen folks who needed a hand, not forever as you suggest, but long enough to get them on their feet or to a place of safety. With very few exceptions, I have had no regrets and have gained many lifelong friends which is worth much more than any expenses incurred.

            1. I can say the majority are friends who stay in touch, but I don’t keep tabs on them. Most are doing well, working and living in their own homes. One very kind lady has since become a nurse and came to help me when I had a medical issue. There are a few individuals who did well for a while but hardship found them again. I can say the families who shared some time with me have all been doing very well. Some of the kids are in college now, and I’m almost as proud of them as their parents are.

            1. I only began sharing my home after I became an empty nester. Alcohol is a poison I don’t have in my home and being alcohol and drug free is a prerequisite for being welcomed. I am not competent to deal with addiction. My home can however provide a safe haven from abuse and temporary shelter for those who need a little help getting back on their feet.

  11. Spend the money on bus tickets and get these people out of here. Almost none are from Bend. When you stop throwing french fries in a burger king parking lot, the birds fly away. These people are trashing our town. Enough!

    1. Drive along any forest road and you’ll see appliances, furniture and mattresses dumped. Drive the highways and you’ll see all types of trash if not whole garbage bags thrown and split for the contents to be blown into farm and/or pasture lands. So, who will you blame for the filth after you ship out all the homeless?

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