City of Bend drops controversial Ninth Street, Juniper Ridge sites for possible outdoor shelters
City manager declares Second Street 'unsafe campsite,' will decide with staff whether to order removal; NE Division Street shelter opens
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- In her regular update on the city of Bend's various efforts to deal with a rising number of homeless, City Councilor Megan Perkins announced Wednesday evening that the controversial Northeast Ninth Street and Juniper Ridge sites have been dropped from consideration for temporary outdoor shelters.
The Ninth Street site proposed last August had drawn intense opposition as a location near two schools (prompting an opposition letter by over 100 school staff) and a walking path used by children, among other concerns. The second proposed Juniper Ridge location -- after another disputed site was dropped in late 2020 -- also sparked neighborhood concern, dismay and objections.
Perkins did not elaborate on the reasons they were dropped from consideration, other than to tell the public, "we are listening to your concerns, and we hear you when you call into Council meetings and write us emails."
On a related note, at the end of the meeting, City Manager Eric King reported to councilors on the police department’s assessment of the Second Street homeless camp as an “unsafe campsite” due to numerous crime, public health and safety issues.
As a result, King said he has designated the area an unsafe campsite and is directing staff to consider the next steps to take, which may be to clear the area, much as Emerson Avenue was last year. The decision on what steps to take will depend in part on shelter capacity, and it was also announced that the Division Street shelter opened last week, making up to 40 more beds available.
The shelter “could house some community members, if that campsite is removed,” King said. “Our hope and plea as we work with the people in that area is to engage with the service providers and find options to be on a better path … get to a better place. That’s the goal.”
Here's Perkins full update:
"I want to start with a big thank you to the service providers who are doing the hard work to serve members of the community who are experiencing houselessness. In particular, sincere thanks to staff at NeighborImpact and Shepherd's House for all the work they’re doing to manage shelter facilities.
"Adding shelter capacity is part of the City’s strategy to address houselessness in Bend and will allow us to better manage camping on our streets and sidewalks.
"We have great news to share: The Division Street shelter opened on February 7. Thank you to all the people who made this possible. The City bought this temporary shelter on Division Street with grant funds, and NeighborImpact is operating it. It will add up to 40 additional shelter beds. This additional capacity will help relieve pressure on the shelter managed by Shepherd’s House at 2nd Street.
"The 2nd Street shelter, a designated permanent warming shelter, has capacity for 90 beds, and it’s been pretty full, despite what you might have heard recently. There were shelter beds open when the shelter first opened in June and over the summer. But, since December there have been more nights when demand for places to sleep exceeds the 90 beds that are available at 2nd street. There have only been six nights in the past six weeks with ANY capacity at all and that was just a handful of beds.
"Developing shelter capacity has to happen before the City can remove camps on public lands. Due to federal court rulings, a city’s ability to regulate sleeping in its public places is related to a community’s ability to provide shelter for homeless individuals who might otherwise need to use public places to sleep. We are working toward having enough capacity that we can more effectively regulate and manage camping on public lands in the City.
"It is a false narrative to tell our community that we have the capacity to house all the people on our streets right now. Roughly 70 percent of our houseless population still remain unsheltered, based on the most recent data. We can and must do better for everybody by increasing shelter capacity.
"The City has a multi-faceted strategy well under way to increase shelter bed capacity and to collaborate with and support the providers who serve the community.
"Another piece of the strategy is to consider proposed development code changes to provide more options for various types of shelters to be built in most zoning districts around Bend. This code development is underway and is recently in the public input phase before the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission will be meeting again on Tuesday, February 22nd to discuss these changes.
"As you may recall, the City of Bend is looking into possible locations for temporary outdoor shelters for unhoused community members in Bend. Negotiations are still underway for a contract with service providers to operate outdoor shelters.
"Please note: We don’t have the locations chosen, but I want to take this moment to assure you that we are listening to your concerns, and we hear you when you call into Council meetings and write us emails. I can tell you that the 9th Street location and the Juniper Ridge location are not currently being considered for this outdoor shelter proposal at this time.
"Lastly, there are promising efforts underway to secure additional funding from the state to address needs:
"This past week, the legislation to fund the start-up of a Collaborative City/County Office on Homelessness was approved. It’s moving quickly through the committee process at the state legislature. This will provide $1 million of start-up funding for our community to launch the Strategic Plan developed by the Emergency Homelessness Task Force.
"Also, the mid-sized cities of Oregon, a coalition Bend helped to build during the pandemic, has organized an effort to get additional state funding to assist in responding to the homelessness crisis. Those cities are seeking a total package of $50 million. If approved, this $50 million request would be apportioned by population and Bend would receive $2.96 million.
"This could be used on things like:
- Acquiring and rehabilitating emergency shelters and safe sleep sites
- Operating emergency shelters and safe sleep sites
- Removing debris from abandoned camps
- Supporting services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, including housing navigation, medical, behavioral health, and mental health care
- Enhancing resources for cities and non-profit partners for houseless service provision
- Culturally-appropriate programs that stabilize individuals and families through food assistance, supportive service information and referrals
- Supporting community engagement and education
"This funding cannot be used to sweep homeless camps or for other law enforcement efforts related to houselessness.
"If you’d like to know more about the city’s comprehensive plan to address houselessness go to www.bendoregon.gov/houselessness.
"And thank you to all of you who care about this issue and have come to us with your solutions and opinions. Together we can get people off of our streets and into safe and managed shelter."