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Deschutes County sees some progress in cleanup, remediation plan at its Juniper Ridge property, will continue funding

Deschutes County

Managed campsite still being sought: 'We have no intention of making this permanent,' Phil Chang says

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Deschutes County is seeing some success and as expected, some continued challenges in its remediation efforts to reduce health and safety concerns at a homeless camping area on county-owned land at Juniper Ridge, just north of Bend, including fewer people living there.

Commissioners got an update last week and supported continued funding for the program in the next fiscal year, as efforts also continue to find a managed campsite where the rest could move without just shifting the problems to other jurisdictions.

The county adopted the $200,000 remediation plan last June after a formal code enforcement complaint was received about unpermitted structures, excessive solid waste and related issues on the 50-acre county-owned parcel, Deputy County Administrator Erik Kropp related in his update.

Steps taken included three basic hygiene stations, with drinking water, trash receptacles and portable toilets, along with security patrols and cleanup of tires and abandoned camps.

Since implementing the plan last July, county contractors have emptied 30-yard dumpsters five times, cleaned up 75,000 pounds of trash, disposed of 70 “bio-buckets” for human waste, disposed of 466 tires and cleared snow to maintain access.

Nearly 40 abandoned camps have been cleaned up, leaving about 20 people in 14 occupied camps. But Kropp noted that the county is just one land owner in the patchwork on Bend’s northern outskirts, with the city and BLM also having parcels where there are a “much greater” number of camps and an estimated “several hundred people,” many using the county’s hygiene stations.

Several people have moved out of homelessness, though the county official said it cannot prove a direct cause and effect, amid the  city’s Hunnell Road camps closure and other efforts.

Staff recommended using county or federal funds to continue the basic services into 2024-25, until an alternative location makes it legally possible to require people living there to leave.

Commissioner Phil Chang said the steps taken move the area “partway to a managed camp, but not all the way there,” stressing, “We have no intention of making this permanent.”

Then there are things that a spreadsheet won’t show.

Janice Garceau, the county’s director of services, said there have been relationships formed: “People feel seen and valued in a way they have not been in a very long time.”

Commissioner Patti Adair said the area “is definitely cleaner, and definitely somewhat safer.”

Colleague Tony DeBone said he met recently with Gov. Tina Kotek and a couple of Eastern Oregon county commissioners and mentioned an ongoing land exchange planned near the fairgrounds in Redmond that could lead to a managed camp.

“Let’s do some good things there,” he said.

In the meantime, all three said they support continued funding, and the specifics will come back later, along with an update.

Chang said the reduction in homeless people living at the site disproves to some degree the claims by opponents that adding more needed services mean more will be drawn to such locations. “There should be a flood,” to that way of thinking, but there hasn’t been.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Barney Lerten

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Kelsey McGee

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


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