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Bend city councilors get another earful, OK Phase 1 planning contract for SE Bend temporary homeless shelter

(Update: Adding video, comments, 36 applicants for 2 vacant council seats)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ)-- The Bend City Council met Wednesday night for the first time without former Mayor Sally Russell and former council member Rita Schenkelberg, who resigned at the last meeting. The council discussed Central Oregon Villages plan for the temporary shelter site in southeast Bend.

Assured by Central Oregon Villages representative (and former Bend police chief) Jim Porter that the plans will follow successful "best practices" for a clean, orderly and well-managed camp,, they approved that first, planning contact of up to about $45,000. They also were told how little room (not much at all) a state law extended to mid-2023 leaves local governments to approve such shelters.

Well before the council took up the proposal that NewsChannel 21 reported on Tuesday, numerous speakers during the visitors section of the agenda voiced criticism of the proposal.

" I'm so proud of living in Bend and now to have this come back, it actually caused me PTSD seeing that on the news last night," Patricia Shay said. "I'm not against having the Oregon Villages, I'm against having it where you're putting it."

But a representative of Central Oregon Villages disputed one comparison in a flyer put out by foes.

"I got the article here that describes the (Portland) shelter that should have never been left to open in the first place," board member Charles Hemingway said of a Willamette Week article. "The article talks about poorly managed shelters, poorly staffed, poorly operated with untrained staff. The shelter was in an area of town that already known for its violence and drive-by shooting already. The implication is that Central Oregon Villages will be operating that way -- it's totally inaccurate."

The council also adopted a proclamation for National Gun Violence Awareness Day and held a public hearing, then held a hearing and approved a resolution to submit to the state for review the Stevens Road Tract Concept Plan, later discussing the Phase 1 planning contract for a temporary homeless shelter site with Central Oregon Villages.

In southeast Bend, the need for more affordable and middle-income housing is growing, and city officials say the Stevens Road Tract Concept Plan, now being submitted to the state, will help with that need.

The Bend council also heard a presentation on how rising costs amid inflation have prompted an upcoming request to increase the budget for the Newport Avenue Corridor Improvements by $3 million, to $31 million.

Councilor Megan Perkins, in her regular update on the homelessness efforts, detailed the background for the shelters such as one proposed by Central Oregon Villages:

Today, we are reaching another milestone in our efforts to provide temporary outdoor shelter to our unhoused community members in Bend. We will be voting later in today’s meeting to approve a contract for Phase 1 of temporary Outdoor Shelters operations. I’d like to talk about what that means and I urge anybody who is calling in or doing public comment tonight about this topic to listen so you can understand what we are and aren’t potentially approving this evening.

There are two phases for this contract to create an outdoor shelter. Phase 1 includes community outreach and engagement. It is also when a site for the outdoor shelter will be secured and when the operator will refine the outdoor shelter design and operating procedures with community input. Phase 2 of a contract would be when the proposed outdoor shelter is developed and begins operations. Today, we are only considering approving a Phase 1 contract.

The contract we are considering is with Central Oregon Villages. You may remember that they submitted two proposals to the City earlier this year to operate temporary outdoor shelters. One of the proposals seemed more feasible than the other and the City has been doing its due diligence to review that proposal in-depth and ask lots of questions. Now we’re at a point where we have the information we need to decide if we want to move forward with a Phase 1 contract with Central Orgon Villages.

Approving the Phase 1 contract would mean that Central Oregon Villages will move forward with community outreach and engagement for the proposed outdoor shelter site. They will secure the outdoor shelter site and refine the design and operating procedures and host community meetings to explain their plan for operations and get community input.

This phase will also include drafting a Good Neighbor Agreement. We get a lot of questions about Good Neighbor Agreements and their purpose, so I want to share more information about them.

First and foremost, Good Neighbor Agreements are not an enforcement mechanism. They are a communication tool for all parties – those living at the shelter, the shelter operator, neighbors and businesses. The purpose of this agreement is to identify ways for community stakeholders to work together to address potential impacts of the shelter and to formalize the goodwill and positive working relationships between stakeholders for the benefit of all neighbors. These agreements are not enforcement documents to regulate whether or not a permitted shelter is able to operate.

In addition to a Good Neighbor Agreement, there will be a code of conduct between the residents of the shelter and the operator that outlines the rules and guidelines residents agree to follow in order to live at the shelter.

During Phase 1 Central Oregon Villages will apply to the City for approval of the shelter under House Bill 2006.  This is an important point about this proposed outdoor shelter. House Bill 2006 is a state bill that is responding to the current statewide housing crisis. It authorizes cities to allow emergency shelters if certain conditions are met. The law has been extended through July 1, 2023.

Approving a proposal under House Bill 2006 is a different process with different criteria than the shelter code updates City Council approved at our last meeting. HB 2006 does not follow a typical land use application process, and no hearing or notice is required on that type of application. However, because we anticipated that there would be outdoor shelters seeking approval under HB 2006, we added these important public engagement requirements and good neighbor agreements into the request for proposal for organizations seeking to operate an outdoor shelter in Bend.

I look forward to hearing more details about the proposed outdoor shelter site, its location, what types of shelters are proposed and the plan for community outreach as part of our presentation for that agenda item later on in our meeting.

But several visitors-section speakers said they were concerned about safety of their residential area and property values, and that the small temporary structures appear unsuitable. The manager of the nearby Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel spoke of inadequate infrastructure and concern about vandalism, theft and the safety of their workers and guests.

A woman said, “Would you want this in your neighborhood? Probably not. I don’t want to be afraid to walk to the store.”

A woman told a frightening report of a man entering her home (the door unlocked so her daughter could come in without delay) and how she threw him out of her house and is “super scared to be at home now.”

But a frequent commenter said her “scary story is a result of not providing safe, managed, reasonable options for people to live. … Stop saying no, start saying yes to something.”

Mayor Pro Tem Gena Goodman-Campbell is serving as mayor until the fall election, and City Manager Eric King told councilors at night's end that 36 people have applied to be considered for the two council vacancies at a series of meetings in the next couple of weeks.

Once their qualifications are concerned, the council has 30 days since the vacancies occurred (until their June 15 meeting) to choose two councilors or the positions will remain vacant until the fall election.

A subcommittee of councilors Anthony Broadman, Melanie Kebler and Megan Perkins will meet Friday afternoon to review the applications and make a recommendation to the full council, which will take it up at a special meeting next Tuesday, with interviews of finalists planned two days later. Another tentative meeting is set for the 13th, if needed, with appointments to be made at the next scheduled council meeting on June 15th.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Kelsey McGee

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

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.


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