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Tempers flare, one arrest during Emerson Avenue homeless camp cleanup in NE Bend

(Update: Adding video, comments from City of Bend, REACH)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A scheduled homeless campsite cleanup and removal Wednesday on Bend's Northeast Emerson Avenue included some times of tension between police and protesters, and even a scuffle with police and arrest. 

A man asked to use the portable toilet on Emerson, but was told by police that he could not. He then proceeded to run toward the portable toilet, eventually being detained and arrested for trespassing by officers. 

"What the **** is wrong with you ******* people!” a protester shouted from behind police barricades. 

It was a question repeatedly asked by protesters during the operation.

The site in city right of way was determined to be a public safety and health hazard.

Assistant City Manager Jon Skidmore said there were a number of safety issues with residents and business owners that led to the cleanup.

"Sleeping on a street a few feet from delivery trucks is not safe,” Skidmore said. 

He said he does not yet know how much the cleanup has cost, but added, "It's a pretty big operation, and if you've been out there you've seen, it's a pretty big cleanup. It is not a cheap endeavor, by any stretch."

With two week's notice, and volunteers and social service agencies trying to assist the campers, byt the time the cleanup started Wednesday morning, there was only one person left at the campsite.

Stacey Witte, the founder and executive director of the organization REACH, still asks the question of, what’s next?

"Mainly, the most challenging is not having a place where we can direct people to go to,” Witte said. 

Witte said she and other organizations worked with many campers to gather what belongings they could carry and find a new spot before the cleanup started.

"What happens when you have a closure like this is that the community disperses,” Witte said.

She said the majority of people moved to Hunnell Road, Juniper Ridge or China Hat Road.

Skidmore says the hardest part of the cleanup is separating what is personal property, and what is not.

"Really going to err on the side of caution and probably going to retain more property than some folks might actually want to claim,” Skidmore said. 

All items collected will be held in large storage containers next to Troy Field for at least 30 days.

Skidmore said the city's working in many areas to create or find more places for people to go, including a Project Turnkey motel purchase and a managed campsite.

But Witte thinks more needs to be done.

"If we could get some infrastructure, where there are bathrooms and trash and people can have more responsibility about cleaning up around them and having a safe place where they're not going to be pushed out and moved, would definitely help the situation," Witte said.

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Noah Chast

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


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