(Update: City council discussion, early direction on issues, adding video and comments)
Bend also first Oregon city to ban dog, cat, rabbit sales by pet stores, to avoid unscrupulous breeders
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- At the Bend City Council's last meeting, councilors chose a faster, hands-on approach to craft unsanctioned camping rules, wanting to play a more active role in the process.
On Wednesday evening, councilors began digging deeper into the specifics of rules to govern unsanctioned camping in public rights of way and city-owned or controlled property. And it appears there is early consensus that residential zones will be an area where that camping would not be allowed -- primarily because that's not where it's already happening, and residents have expressed great concern.
Councilors also plan to host new, more informal roundtables in coming months to gather public feedback about the "time, place, and manner" codes they will be drafting.
Councilors started with discussion of the "where" to allow or ban camping at Wednesday's meeting, then moved on to "when" and, later, "how" (what to allow).
City staff strongly recommended the process in which enforcement officers – when that is deemed necessary – determine shelter-bed availability but also conduct individual assessments to be sure that space is available to that person (that they would qualify for a high-barrier shelter, for example).
Assistant City Attorney Ian Leitheiser noted that under the federal case law and state rules, such camping regulations must “objectively reasonable,” though that isn’t defined. But in general, he said, courts say “people should be cited for conduct, not status.”
Councilors in general indicated they want to be sure the regulations make clear when campers can stay, not just where they cannot, and need to take an individual’s situation into account.
Another issue raised, of course, is about those who don’t want to be in shelters, for a variety of reasons, from pets to autonomy and freedom.
As Leitheiser noted, “The question we ask every time is, how is it going to work in reality? We’re trying not to do this in an ivory tower.”
Councilor Mo Mitchell said she personally dislikes the terms “managed” or “unmanaged” for camping locations – “This idea that we have to ‘manage’ human beings has a negative history,” so she hopes to “have a more inclusive language.”
Councilor Anthony Broadman said, “We are regulating an activity. We cannot regulate anyone’s existence. All we can do is regulate the activity of a specific person, just like everybody sitting at this desk can be regulated."
Mitchell also said she was “adamantly opposed” to the idea of distance buffers from schools or parks, which are “making the assumption (that the homeless) are inherently dangerous.”
Colleague Barb Campbell made a similar point later. She was fine, as were several councilors, with not allowing the unsanctioned camping on streets or city property in residential zones, since most aren’t doing so now, as they seek to be near services, and the concerns of residents.
“Certainly, residential and school restrictions are what we’ve heard from the public,” Campbell said. “But homeless folks are not dangerous to us – it’s just not a thing. I don’t want us to do something to add to that myth that the general public (has).”
She and others supported restrictions against camping near the Waterway Overlay Zone on the Deschutes River, to protect the water. But Campbell said it was not, as critics have claimed, to keep the homeless out of the Westside: "I'm open to the idea of 'safe parking’ in the City Hall parking lot, if we want.”
Even a relatively simple issue of when to allow camping – primarily overnight – got potentially more complicated in noting how much longer hours of dark (and potentially less safety) are in the winter than summer. City Attorney Mary Winters said some seasonal adjustment is possible, but “if you make it too complicated nobody is going to remember.”
The initial discussion is about actual campsites, not people who “camp” in vehicles, which will be dealt with separately.
City Manager Eric King said some open house events on the camping regulation issues are planned this month, and roundtables on draft proposals next month.
On another subject, city councilors heard several voices of support and gave a slide show of their own pets (to the Queen tune “You’re My best Friend,” then unanimously backed an ordinance to become Oregon’s first city to proactively ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits by commercial breeders in pet stores.
They took the action even though local pets stores only hold adoption events with shelters and rescue organizations, which won't be affected.
The ordinance adopted by numerous communities around the country is intended to promote community awareness of animal welfare and help prevent inhumane conditions for the animals, avoiding the “puppy mills” and “kitten mills” that have used pet stores as sales outlets over the years.
Here is Wednesday's presentation that guided discussion on unsanctioned camping codes.
Here's Councilor Megan Perkins houselessness update, focusing on efforts taken during last week's extreme heat:
Bend City Council Houselessness Update 8/3/2022
Following the extreme heat in our community that prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency last week, this is a great time to recap how local non-profit services providers really stepped up and extended their services and resources to help keep community members safe.
Local organizations, including the City of Bend, provided vital water throughout the community, a cooling and overnight shelter, and services to meet a wide variety of individualized needs. This effort represented coordination between municipal governments, service providers, local businesses, and mutual aid organizations.
With the recent opening and launch of the Lighthouse Navigation Center, the Bend community had a cooling center all ready to go in a permanent shelter site. The Lighthouse Navigation Center is a community partnership between The Shepherd’s House, the City of Bend, and numerous non-profit support organizations.
We are grateful for Shepherd’s House staff and volunteers as they have been responding to the needs of the community, day and night, in a safe, air-conditioned shelter, as well as through their mobile van services. The Lighthouse has invited additional guests in, beyond its regular participants, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. to relax in the day-use space, have access to water, food, popsicles and additional onsite resources.
We want to also thank the Masonic Center for holding a cooling center at their location staffed by the Cascade Peer and Self Help Center all week as well as serving as a donation and distribution center for groups and providers doing outreach to houseless campers.
For people camping on Hunnell Road, the City’s Utility Department staff worked closely with Avion Water Co. and installed water service and mister tent to help our community's most vulnerable.
REACH, a City-contracted mobile outreach provider, deployed additional volunteers to assist in getting water, ice, Gatorade and other essential needs. Over a four-day period last week, REACH connected with approximately 90-100 people via phone or in-person. They met people in all settings – camps, local motels, and shelters.
REACH also fielded increased calls requesting motel stays, gas vouchers, fans, AC units, generators, food and prescription assistance. The extreme heat motivated many to complete paperwork to be added into the coordinated entry system, a requirement for housing placement. REACH completed 10 assessments necessary for getting on the housing waitlists. Transitioning people into housing is exactly what we want to see.
At the Bethlehem Inn shelter, established guests had the option to stay on-site during the day to get relief from hot weather. And, Bethlehem Inn in Bend has been open from 2 to 5 p.m. daily for anyone in the community needing services – even if they aren’t established guests.
I would be remiss by not mentioning that there are so many more service providers and mutual aid groups that worked tirelessly to support our houseless community during this heat. Thank you to all Bendites who donated water or helped staff distribution centers or who reached out to our houseless community during this time. You truly exemplified community.
Finally, we must recognize Deschutes County Homeless Outreach Services for all their work coordinating responses and deploying resources throughout the County related to the extreme weather. This was a mammoth effort, and their work was invaluable to keeping people safe.
If community members want and need help, especially with the heat, calling “211” is an excellent resource for details on cooling centers and a wide range of local supports.
Unfortunately, this won’t be our last heat emergency. If you want to help people during extreme weather emergencies, or volunteer in any way, reach out to the nonprofit service providers providing these services. Visit the Homeless Leadership Coalition webpage (cohomeless.org) for a list of organizations that provide services and resources to individuals experiencing houselessness.
I want give my heartfelt thanks to all those organizations and individuals working to help those who don’t have the privilege of living in homes with cooling systems and protection from the extreme weather. Collaborative partnerships truly do save lives.
-Councilor Megan Perkins