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Bend plans removal of ‘unsafe’ NE Bend homeless campsite, but advocates ask where they will go

(Update: Adding video, comments from Family Kitchen, Deschutes County Health, homeless resident.)

'Displacing anyone, no matter how recently they've found a place that they can call home, is absolutely not preferred.'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A new city of Bend policy to remove "unsafe" homeless campsites on city rights of way is raising questions from some homeless service providers about the fate of those living at the first chosen location.

The new city homeless campsite policy, designed to determined whether camps on rights of way are unsafe, was passed by the city council unanimously Wednesday night.

"I think we have to have a policy. I think this body needs to create what this policy says,” City Councilor Anthony Broadman said at the meeting.

The homeless camp on Northeast Emerson Avenue near Second Street is the first site the city will focus on. It has nearly 40 tents and makeshift structures.

City Manager Eric King told NewsChannel 21, "The notice to the social service providers allowing them to work with camp residents will occur on Monday, June 7th, which will allow for a two-week engagement period prior to any camp closure."

Logan Colbert, a resident of the camp, has been living on the streets since he was a child.

He said there are occasional bad actors, but most of the people living on Emerson are good people.

"No major trouble here, no crimes against people or anything,” Colbert said. “So I don't understand what the problem is with this one little block around here."

But an impact analysis done by Bend police show 41 calls for service between April and June 1. It cites issues of safety, crime, trash and waste.

Donna Burklo, program director with Family Kitchen, regularly assists people living in that area, and thinks moving people out without a plan for a new place to live is not the way to go.

"Displacing anyone, no matter how recently they've found a place that they can call home, is absolutely not preferred,” Burklo said.

She said if they are removed, there is currently no long-term plan for the residents. 

"They will go to other places that they either have known in the past, or new places that they hear about. It's not as if they disappear,” Burklo said.

Colleen Thomas, homeless services coordinator at Deschutes County Behavioral Health, agrees.

"These are humans, and everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” Thomas said. 

Both representatives said their main issue with removal of the camp is there's just not enough places for people to go. 

Burklo told NewsChannel 21 when they go around to different homeless camps, they provide a one-sheet community resource guide with shelters and food and outreach services.

She said the small organizations help, but are just not enough.

Colbert said, "That's why I want to know, where these people are going? Where are they going to go to sleep now? If all these people are cleared out now, these young guys, these guys that are sitting here behind me, these guys got nowhere to go.” 

Thomas says she understands the need for some action and that communication with the city has been great, but feels there needs to be a permanent solution.

"It's really unfortunate, we're pushing people away from where they really feel like they belong,” Thomas said.

Article Topic Follows: Bend

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.


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