Resident calls to resolve Bend's homeless issue with holistic approach
(Update: Adding video, comments from President of Woodside Ranch Homeowners Association Ray Miao)
BEND, Ore., (KTVZ) -- As the issue of homelessness continues to grow in Bend, residents living at the south end of Bend feel the homeless camps off China Hat Road also bring a risk that requires some solutions, sooner than later.
“We are living in the forest, so our biggest natural danger for us and for the south end of Bend is wildfire,”
Ray Miao, the president of the Woodside Ranch Homeowners Association and chair of its Fire Committee, said Thursday.
Miao lives four minutes from the homeless camps and said that with the risk of fire so close to home, there’s virtually no time to prepare, defend or evacuate.
“Especially with the winter coming now, there’s going to be more and more outdoor fires, and possibly even fires inside trailers,” Miao said.
Since there are no built fire pits like traditional campsites, and much of the homeless don’t have many resources, or even water, Maio said there’s a high risk of the fires getting out of control.
The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office said deputies respond to a lot of calls in that area, ranging from fires and domestic violence to theft.
According to the Forest Service, campers are not supposed to stay past a 14-day period.
But one homeless man, living in his camper with his dog, said the homeless population off China Hat Road is only growing.
Miao said, “We really do have to have something- a permanent place for them to live.”
“We keep treating the symptom, rather than the underlying problem. Society really has to stand up and say we are responsible for each other. We live in a community -- what will the community do? We need to look at this holistically and say- it’s mental health, it’s transit, it’s land use development, and it’s also jobs."
Maio also mentioned the importance of training, so people can qualify for those jobs.
He pointed out that people become homeless for a multitude of reasons, with the pandemic being one of them. PTSD is another, and the list goes on.
“It’s going to take more than just one agency. It’s going to take a lot of manpower, a lot of money, and a lot of forethought," Miao said. "This is a long-term problem. It didn’t happen overnight. We’re not going to cure it overnight.”