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Redmond city councilors continue discussion, public hearing on camping regulations for the homeless

School board asks city to increase buffer zone to 1,000 feet around schools

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Redmond city councilors met Tuesday evening to continue discussing and gathering public input about proposed camping regulations on public property that are expected to be adopted this spring.

They are considering code amendments including changes in safe parking and vehicle camping sites. They're also focusing on protecting public areas like parks. Deputy City Manager John Roberts told councilors about the changes to the draft Tuesday evening and said the city hopes to have the new rules adopted in March or April.

The hearing was closed after a half-hour of testimony, and Fitch said he expects the new regulations to be adopted in March, including a change that sets a 1,000-foot buffer for schools.

Under a new state law, every Oregon city faces a July 1 deadline for adopting regulations to deal with homelessness in public areas.

At Tuesday evening's meeting, city councilors were looking into the protection of public park areas -- including a proposal to make the whole Dry Canyon an "exclusion area" -- and regulating camping on rights-of-way like sidewalks and streets.

They also planned to cover camping codes around schools and child care facilities, the storing of personal property, and the Safe Parking Program, which is one effort to serve the homeless.

Redmond School Board member Keri Lopez appeared at the hearing to speak and report that the school board unanimously approved a letter to the council to double the proposed buffer zone for homeless areas from 500 to 1,000 feet. She thanked the city for its revised draft that intends to do that.

Pastor Rick Russell with Mountain View Fellowship Church in Redmond helps manage the Safe Parking program at his facility. 

"People are parking all over town or in the junipers, as they say, because there aren’t a place for them to go, so this is creating a space where they can be that’s stable, that's safe for them, and safe for the community," Russell said earlier Tuesday.

The Safe Parking Program allows people struggling with homelessness to temporarily park their vehicles – anything from RVs to passenger cars — and sleep at designated sites in Redmond.

“We probably have 250 folks who are unhoused in our community, and only about a fifth of those, about 50 of those, are in a sheltered situation," Russell said. "So, we have a lot of folks around our community, parking for a few days, moving along, or worse, moving into BLM land and county land and really going off grid."

Russell said the church has designated 12 parking spaces for the Safe Parking Program and they have more partners coming on board to provide space.

He’s requested the city have regulations stating homeless are not to be able to camp within 500 feet of Safe Parking sites, which provides incentive for one business to come on board and dedicate space for the program.

“We have a dedicated staff of case managers, social workers, who do an intake process with people to make sure they’re a good fit for the program," Russell said. "We have some basic rules for them to follow. Then we do weekly appointments to check in with them, to establish goals, and make sure they’re moving towards stability and stable housing."

Russell said housing issues have touched their entire community, and they also see about 120 students struggling with homelessness.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Bola Gbadebo

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