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Bend councilors choose faster, hands-on approach to craft unsanctioned camping rules

(Update: Adding two planned property acquisitions, video and comments from council)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Bend city councilors, reviewing the issues involved in crafting a code to regulate unsanctioned camping in the city, agreed Wednesday evening to a shorter time frame and more direct involvement in developing those rules, rather than create another work group and a lengthier process.

Councilors also will make use of a new city charter element, allowing holding of informal "roundtables" with advisory groups, rather than wait for formal public hearings later in the process. That will allow for more early, direct interaction with the public about the proposal and options than what happened during the controversial crafting of temporary shelter codes earlier this year.

City staff had listed the issues involved in deciding on the "time, place and manner" of camping that state law, court opinions and other factors have directed are acceptable for local communities. Then came the two options: A direct council-led process that could finish by fall, and one to create another "working group" that would by necessity take longer and not be done until at least year's end.

Each city councilor expressed their preference for a quicker path toward completing the rules and addressing many citizens' concerns about growing camps of houseless individuals around the community, an increasingly common problem around the country.

Mayor Gena Goodman-Campbell said, "I think there would be a lot of opportunity to go back and forth, rather than just, you know, the public giving us input. We absorb that, but (in the original process) we don't have a chance to respond to it -- to respond to questions. "

Councilor Megan Perkins said, "In Option 1, there's an opportunity for direct public input, both on the education side at the beginning and then the feedback, with something to react to."

Colleague Barb Campbell said, "I like the idea of taking advantage of the advisory committees that we already have," rather than creating another one.

The general rule is that people who are sleeping in public when no shelter beds are available for that person can't be cited for that reason alone. So the council can regulate the time, place, and manner of camping in public. The embedded presentation is below, along with the houselessness update Councilor Megan Perkins provides at each council meeting.

Councilor Megan Perkins' update 7/20/22

Councilors just heard about the parameters with which the City is able to develop a camping code to better regulate where, when and how unsanctioned camping can happen on City rights-of-way. We’re starting down the path of developing code and you’ll hear more about what that could look like, and the many different ways you can provide input, over the summer and into the fall.

In the meantime, we have much to celebrate! Our strategies to address houselessness include increasing shelter capacity and supporting services that people need to get back on their feet and into stable housing. 

You may recall hearing about a proposal by Central Oregon Villages to pursue a temporary outdoor shelter at 27th Street and Bear Creek Road. In June, Councilors approved a $45,300 contract with Central Oregon Villages to perform community outreach and engagement, apply to the City for approval of site improvements and shelter buildings under state legislation known as HB 2006, and refine the site plan for a Temporary Outdoor Pallet Shelter at Desert Stream Church. 

As part of the City’s Phase 1 contract with Central Oregon Villages, on July 14, the organization held an open house to gather information from the neighborhood and address their concerns.   Every table was full. At the event, Central Oregon Villages shared drafts of their Village Handbook, which is a Code of Conduct, and a proposed Good Neighbor Agreement. Central Oregon Villages requested feedback and recommendations on the documents, will review and incorporate feedback and will report back to the Council in the coming months. We want to thank our community for your input!

Another exciting step toward solutions is the opening of the Lighthouse Navigation Center, an innovative and responsive approach to addressing the challenges facing our community. The Navigation Center, a program of Shepherd’s House on Northeast Second Street, is a service hub where multiple providers meet with clients in a single, accessible location.  The Lighthouse Navigation Center Ribbon Cutting celebration took place on July 12 and was well attended by many supportive community members.

In addition to sheltering an average of 95 people per night in June, the Lighthouse Navigation Center enrolled 60 people in its day program which includes individualized case management, skill building, breakfast and lunch. Shepherd’s House is partnering with several resource providers including Mosaic Medical, Deschutes County Behavioral Health, Thrive, REACH, St. Charles, St. Vincent De Paul, Family Kitchen, Bethlehem Inn, The Peaceful Presence Project, and others, to help clients obtain permanent housing, health and stability. This collaborative approach by service providers to meeting the needs of our houseless community is truly to be applauded.

Fifteen people served by Shepherd’s House transitioned to more permanent housing in June. That’s exactly what we all want to see and we look forward to more success in finding stable housing in the future.

The Franklin Avenue Shelter, formerly the Rainbow Motel, which the City bought earlier this year, has 24 rooms and is being used by 43 people at the last count - including households with children. REACH is providing case management. Family Kitchen delivers meals. And, NeighborImpact manages daily operations providing stable and supportive services for families in need. Once again, evidence that collaboration makes a difference.

The Rainbow site is in temporary use as a shelter while the City renovates the Division Street Shelter (formerly the Bend Value Inn).  

Renovations on the Division Street shelter are ongoing. Remember that the Division Street Shelter was a motel that the City purchased with state funds known as Project Turnkey. The goal is to create emergency shelter units and we anticipate this being a 28-room low-barrier shelter. The City has a contract with NeighborImpact to operate it when it’s ready.

And finally, we want to acknowledge significant progress by St. Vincent de Paul on their new housing program.  At the end of June, St. Vincent de Paul held a two-day open house for their new housing program that includes a 10-unit village right behind St. Vincent de Paul in southeast Bend. It was expected to open back in March, but was set back due to supply issues. The village has 10 sleeping units and a community building with bathrooms, showers, laundry and a kitchen. Ten adult men and women are expected to move in August. I had a chance to tour this facility and meet with the staff and it is a true achievement and an important step in our shared goal of creating temporary housing in Bend.

As you can see, many important steps in the City’s strategic plan to prevent and end houselessness are becoming a reality. We want to acknowledge the collaboration of our service providers as we expand capacity and work together to provide essential services like food, medical, government assistance, showers, behavioral health support, and so much more. It is truly making a difference and we thank you.

-Councilor Megan Perkins

Map of shelters adding capacity across the City

Toward the end of their first meeting in over a month, two planned property acquisitions were announced, first by Councilor Melanie Kebler:

Earlier this year, Council acquired the former Rainbow Motel. The purchase met both short-term and long-term community needs, including potential use in the near-term as a temporary shelter, and ultimately to support Core Area redevelopment goals, including affordable housing, civic plaza, or other public uses, such as a new City Hall.

The City is continuing to identify strategic acquisitions in the Core Area that will serve these same goals, and is a committed partner to the redevelopment of the Core Area and Bend Central District.

The City now has an opportunity to purchase the property at 184 NE Franklin Avenue, one door down from the former Rainbow Motel. Purchasing the property at 184 NE Franklin furthers the City’s goals of acquiring centrally located, adjacent properties that can eventually serve as a future redevelopment site in the Core Area.

In the near term, the property will be leased back to the current occupant, Paulson’s Floor Coverings, for one year.  

I move to authorize the City Manager to negotiate and enter into an assignment agreement, in a form approved by the City Attorney, with Taylor Development, LLC to assume Taylor Development, LLC’s interest under its Sales Agreement with EDIM, LLC for the purchase of 184 NE Franklin Avenue (Tax Lot numbers ending in 4500, 4600, 4700) in the amount of $2.9 million and one dollar plus $10,050.00 in administrative costs, as well as to direct staff to take whatever steps are necessary under the Sales Agreement to Close the purchase without further Council approval, including but not limited to entering into a lease with EDIM, LLC, to occupy 184 NE Franklin Avenue for no less than one year after close, with rent payments to the City equal to $13,196.00 per month.

Later, Councilor Barb Campbell read this statement and motion (also approved):

Tonight, Council has the opportunity to begin the process of purchasing a parcel of land in SE Bend from ODOT. This is a parcel between Les Schwab Tires and the southbound onramp to Highway 97 near Murphy Road. ODOT is taking this property through it surplus property process, and we expect them to make it available for the City to purchase in the coming weeks or months.

Although we do not have the ability to put this parcel to use right now, I believe this is an opportunity for the City to take a tangible step towards securing property to support our housing goals. The most likely use for this property, over time, is as a respite for unhoused community members seeking safe parking or a managed outdoor shelter.

Prior to any final decision being made on how to use the land, the City intends to involve neighbors in the discussion. Those will likely be conversations for the next Council to have in 2023. For now, we just want to acquire the land so we have it for use later.

The property will be subject to a “reversionary clause” which will require the City to transfer the property back to ODOT, if the property is needed for a proposed interchange between Murphy Road and Highway 97, anticipated to be at least three years from now. We may have the opportunity to take full ownership of this property if it is not needed for the Murphy interchange.

I move to authorize the City Manager to enter into an agreement, in a form approved by the City Attorney, with the Oregon Department of Transportation for the purchase of approximately 1.66 acres located at 61071 HWY 97, based on the appraised value of $45,000, subject to a reversionary interest in ODOT, and to take all steps necessary to finalize the purchase without further action from Council.

Article Topic Follows: Bend
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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.

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