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Deschutes County commissioners to discuss possible location for RV homeless camp east of Bend

(Update: Adding video, resident comments)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Like many ideas suggesting where and how to best assist the homeless population, there's another one that's becoming a topic of debate.

An early-stage proposal for an RV homeless camp on Deschutes County-owned land along US Highway 20 between Gosney and Gribbling Roads, in the 22000 block of Highway 20, is on the agenda for the Board of County Commissioners meeting Wednesday afternoon.

"The board recently expressed its desire to discuss this property as a possible location for an initiative to serve those experiencing houselessness that may include an RV park or associated uses," an issue summary states. "Being that EFU zoning would prohibit such use, rezoning would be required."

Lisa Baker is a Bend resident who is open to hearing more about the proposal.

“I feel like this is at least away from our schools, which has been my main opposition to a lot of this," Baker said Tuesday. "It’s not in somebody’s backyard. I think on a property this size, you can allow for a larger buffer than you could in some of the other proposed areas. And I trust (commissioners) Patti (Adair) and Tony (DeBone) to come up with a plan that’s better than our community, than I do our city council.” 

Some Bend residents applaud the idea, with the inclusion of septic service and some sort of shuttle service.

Because this location is east of the city, transportation, among other resources, is a consideration that would still need to have the kinks worked out.

The voices that lean strongly in opposition have voiced concern about trash pollution, wildfire risk, land value degradation and intrusion on farm land, since it's currently zoned for exclusive farm use.

They also say the homeless would be too far from employment opportunities.

“I think the biggest thing I’m hearing is that people want enforcement of the current laws," Baker said. "I haven’t heard anybody say 'Let’s not help them at all,' but they want the homeless population figured out. They want the people who are committing crimes dealt with, they want the drug addicts taken care of with some kind of treatment facility, and they want the people who are just having a hard time to be helped. But by lumping them all into one category, it makes it really difficult for the community at large to see that being done.” 

Although no action is proposed Wednesday, only discussion at this early stage, many people already have reached out to county commissioners to make them aware of where they stand.

The growing issue of homelessness in Central Oregon is a controversial one, and the road to solutions is proving to be complex.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.


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