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‘Final piece in the puzzle:’ Redmond, Deschutes County work on new managed homeless camp, to clear land for swap

(Update: adding video, comments from Ed Fitch, Patti Adair)

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County commissioners and staff will be revisiting a familiar issue next Wednesday: How to make a long-discussed state-county land swap near the Redmond Fairgrounds happen, in part by relocating homeless people from one piece of county-owned land to another.

Despite the many hurdles to clear, Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch said Friday, "I think this is going to all come together in the next nine months to 12 months, so that we can get people relocated from the county property, get people relocated off the streets in northeast Redmond and have them in a safe location."

County commissioners and city councilors held a joint meeting on Tuesday of last week and continued their discussion of the land exchange and the potential for a new managed homeless camp.

In 2015, Deschutes County and the Department of State Lands agreed to a land swap that would allow the county to acquire land south of the Fairgrounds and Expo Center. In exchange, the county would hand over 137 acres to DSL in east Redmond for future industrial uses.

The main problem, however, is that numerous homeless people reside on the future DSL land.

County Commissioner Patti Adair said Friday, "We'll have a way to provide services there. But we definitely need to get them off of that DSL land, because the state does not want the land if they're still there."

Redmond currently has the nearby Oasis Village managed camp, as well as its Safe Parking Program on church parking lots around the city.

Oasis Village sits on part of the 43-acre county-owned site (green on map) along Highway 126. The idea is to make another piece of it available, possibly as a managed camp for those willing to go there when the 137 currently county-owned acres (the blue on the map) are cleared of homeless camps and cleaned.

Fitch said, "The safe parking has been very successful. Oasis is doing very well. I think having Jericho Road out there will be very helpful. But I think Mountain View (Community Development) is going to do out on this particular site is more transitional housing, modular homing that will allow homeless people to have a step up on that or to get to permanent housing."

Supporters of the program say the managed homeless camps have provided accessibility to services for the homeless community.

In regard to this, Adair said, "It's much more accessible by service providers. It's right there. It's on the back side of Oasis Village. We do have some additional property there, which are being reviewed for more programs, more managed programs that will help people."

Last spring, DSL informed the county that individuals residing on the 137 acres would need to be removed and the property cleaned of debris for the land exchange to take place.

County staff has proposed using 45 more county-owned acres just to the south, identified as a possible managed campsite, but points to "many challenges" in such a relocation effort.

Deschutes County has set aside $1.5 million for managed homeless camps, according to Mayor Fitch. He believes development of a financial plan should happen over the next six months.

"I think this will be the final piece in the puzzle for the homeless situation," he said. "Again, we need to work a lot more on additional housing and affordable housing, but I do think that if we get this physically set up the right way and get these service providers to have access there, we're moving forward together. I think we'll have a great product at the end of the day."

Fitch tells NewsChannel 21 he is 100% confident the city and the county can achieve this project. He adds the only challenge is funding for service providers to manage and operated it.

Here is the documentation on next Wednesday's county commission meeting (agenda item 8):

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Matthew Draxton

Matthew Draxton is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Matthew here.


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